The Dissertation Diary – Untitled With No Title In Sight

It’s been a month and a bit since I’ve posted about the dissertation. Most of that has been spent writing… Well, 50% of it has been spent on the dissertation compared to other uni work… Well, maybe of that 50%, 20% has been actually writing it and the rest has been researching… Well, maybe I mean procrastinating, playing SimCity and stuff.

But I digress.

I have actually completed the first draft, well most of it. I’m just under 7000 words into it (10000 being the target) and I’ve written some absolute crap. But that’s ok, I’m supposed to. At least I have the idea and I’m not even going anywhere near it during the Easter break. In fact my tutor now has it so I can be suitably demolished down to size ready for draft number two. If this has taught me anything, this experience, it’s that I really a shit for procrastinating.

To write, you need a routine. And when I last updated the DD, I had one. Now however that’s gone to shit a bit for various reasons, all of which are so painfully boring that they don’t even interest me. But none the less, gone to the wall they have. Now other written work needs to take a little priority jump ready for when I go back to uni (for the final time *sob*) so I’m a bit worried I will lose my way a bit. Hence why I’m actually still researching. Yes, still! You can never stop really. From my random thoughts, I have a book idea to concentrate on after this project is done and whilst collecting these thoughts, I’m reading and investigating the areas where my story is set. Thankfully, the good thing about having parents that accumulate random 80s-90s books on nature and science is that they have a bloody huge library of things that aren’t useful until they are useful.

Anyway, things to do:

  • Change the names (at the moment the character names aren’t their names. I just used them to get me typing so I didn’t spend ages deliberating their names. I’m pretty crap at names)
  • Find a title. Yup, I don’t even have a title. Which is beginning to worry me. I mean, it’s not the most important thing is it? It can’t be something wanky, but it can’t be overly simple either. Or spoil the story/plot or be laden with cliche. It’s a pickle.
  • Apply for Jobs. Actually this is priority number one before the Easter weekend hits. Guess what I should be doing now? Uh-huh.

And on that note of procrastinating, I need to increase the health coverage of my city, Sloppy Joe’s, in the region of Hairy Shopping… Don’t ask.

Word Count: 6,936

Currently Reading: Toni Morrison – A Mercy

Read: Nick Hornby – About A Boy, Bret Easton Ellis – American Psycho

The Goddess of Dawn and the Northern Wind – The Dissertation Diary

Dissertation Diary, I have neglected you. I apologise. *Apology accepted* Good! Let’s carry on.

I’ve not actually detailed much of my dissertation and what it is about so it’s time to do that and to allow some closely guarded information to slip through the net. I have had this idea since the summer and starting back at university. Four months on, I’ve stuck to it. I’ve had my doubts and I’ve had to do some very morbid reading about leukaemia and cancer. But I’ve also been able to do some rather joyous reading and researching about this beautiful thing:

Aurora BorealisYes this is the wonderful beauty of nature that is the Aurora Borealis. Set in 2012, the story is about a young man, who is just about to lose his battle with illness, and wants to see this wonderful sight before his time is up. He enlists the help of his elder sister and his best friend to drive him up to the farthest reaches of Scotland where the event is uniquely visible at this time. Capers along the way, drama, races against time; all ensue. Along with a secret agenda of the young mans, involving his friends, that will affect the rest of their lives.

Out of the 300 or so odd words I had previously, none remain. But I’m currently up to nearly 2000 new words. Which is 1/5th of the entire 10,000 I have to do. Hopefully by the end of the month I’ll have that all written and I can leave it for a week before some serious re-writing. One of the hardest things (other than names, I’m terrible at naming characters) is deciding on a style for the piece. The stories I’ve written have very much defined my voice now and I think I can quite confidently write and create a piece that is me. But by style I mean this: how should it look? This isn’t a very long novella, so should I break it up into chapters? Smaller pieces of an overall arc? Or should I just go for it as one dense piece. I’ve decided at the moment to go for chapters, which can always change (thank you word processors). I also need to work out how to write something without giving it away too much but also without spoiling everything. I can’t say it yet, because I don’t want to spoil the enjoyment should you get to read it. But everyone that does know the secondary plot line likes it.  Also I must attempt to avoid anything completely cliche. Which, I’m sure you’ll all appreciate, is a complete arse to do.

I have to present this story to my creative writing colleagues and tutors on Thursday in the form of a presentation. Of course this shouldn’t be too much of an issue. In fact I may well take my earlier blurb on my story in with me, that looks pretty succinct. I’d already completed this plan where I had suggested certain books I’d read. My tutor met with me, obviously completely aware of my style of writing and ambition, and told me to read two books, neither of which I’d thought of. Those being Northern Lights by Philip Pullman (a natural choice I suppose given the setting) and a book that exemplifies the quest genre with my satirical British wit. That being The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy books by Douglas Adams. At that point in our meeting that I pull out my iPhone to show that  I was re-listening to the radio show at that very moment. Clever timing.

So maybe I’ll update you again when the presentation is over. In the mean time I’ve lots of other things to read, write, panic about, think about and watch. Here’s a link to the above picture from the BBC website and here’s some audio that I’ll be listening to whilst writing. You can listen too, thanks to the magic of the internet!

Writing Playlist

Words: 1875

Read: White Noise – Don DeLillo, The Thin Man – Dashiell Hammett

Reading: Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy

The Dissertation Diary – Christmas (Or How To Avoid Work)

Yes, the traditional holiday season of putting on weight and celebrating the change of year numbers has meant I’ve done absolutely nothing. Shit all. Bugger.

All I’ve actually HAD to do was read and I failed miserably. Being distracted by Halo, beard growing and eating.
So the plans for this year are as follows:

1) Finish University without leaving everything to the last minute.
2) Get really buff in January.
3) See if I can go on my friends stag do in May (during dissertation hand in time)
4) Maybe get another Radio Show on the go.
5) Write that Radio sitcom I’ve had planned for ages.
6) Write that Movie script I’ve had planned for ages.
7) See if I can go to see the Northern Lights.
8) Get some work experience.
9) Look in to a Masters Degree.
10) Don’t drink.

That last one isn’t just an idle resolution, for I am a Dryathlete. I’m raising money for Cancer Research UK by not drinking for a month. I’ll try and go further too. But if you wish to donate, visit or if you’re in the UK text PINT84 to 70070 to donate £5.

But the rest, all pie in the sky thinking really… Except maybe the get buff. Need to get back on the gym wagon. I also need to stop being distracted by video games. I thought Halo 4 was going to destroy my life, but NO. It’s not even my now ridiculous obsession with getting all the available achievements for all the Halo games, NO! It’s this game I picked up on sale called Tropico 4. You get to be a dictator running your own Banana Republic. A bit of a jokey city builder but it’s fun, easy pick up and play and just cool. I’m trying to find a citizen called Januito so I can have him executed… Ok maybe only certain people would get the humour.

So I hope my next update is more productive, but until then please sponsor me. You have no idea how hard not drinking is when you have a delicious 21 year old Johnnie Walker XR (google it) sat on the shelf. Also, if you don’t follow me on twitter you can (@cleaverslips) and even instagram now (seancleaver)! Here’s a selection of alright photos.

Lost In Whisky Translation
Tailgate To Heaven
Charity Shop Extreme Shopping
Some Local Winter Sight Seeing
Why I Write Rather Than Draw

Currently Reading: Tailgate To Heaven – Adam Goldstein, Ingenious Pain – Andrew Miller.

The Dissertation Diary – Easily Distracted

Well. What a week.

It’s always hard to do anything at all in life when life gets in the way. Last week, life majorly got in the way of all dissertation related endeavours. I do now have a supervisor for my project and the few people that have asked really like the story idea so hopefully, this will come off well. So I flew in to this week with commitment and confidence that only life could ruin… Well life and whatever tawdry low-budget tosh my friends have cared to tape from the Horror channel and play over take-out and friendly banter. Which is where this weeks journey began. Shortly followed by finishing some sketches and one lines for BBC Radio 4 that didn’t get used. Sad face.

Fast forward to Monday. 5am. Awake. I’ve never got up that early on purpose unless to catch a flight. But this time it was to meet one of the heroes of my, and my friends, life. The actor, bodybuilder, writer, businessman, politician and Austrian (that counts), Arnold Schwarzenegger. Early morning rises are not fun at the best of times, even less so when having to stand outside Waterstones in Piccadilly from 7:30am and only just make it into the queue. The man at the front had been there since 7pm the night before. 12 HOURS! I can’t imagine that, as the one thing I would not want to do when getting Arnie to sign my book is smell like I’ve slept on a London street overnight. But we got in, were rushed along with hardly a hello or a handshake, got our book signed, ate a burger and left. But it was totally worth it. Here’s my good friend Charlie (@brownsell) getting his book increased in value.

Later that day, via the medium of twitter and random contacts, I had a small open spot doing stand-up at UCL for Tuesday. Obviously whenever I do any comedy I always feel completely nervous, way out of my depth and a complete phoney. But that’s half the fun. It went quite well, the other acts were astounding (Tony Law a particular highlight) and I survived. However I was doomed to get the last train home (1:30am). Bearing in mind I had to be back at LMU (which I’d just spent half the night criticising) for 10am, I was one sleepy Sean. Panda eyes in full effect.

So, lets be honest. Going out drinking with friends after lectures, watching the England game and being out until 10:30, really isn’t a great idea. Especially when you have so much reading to do and writing to think about and after I’d just started a new gym regime. So I spoilt that with Nando’s and alcohol. But I still felt pretty good going in to Thursday. Back to the gym and then to a hospital appointment was the plan. I’ve recently been in hospital for an operation so I had to have a check up. Positive: Got to read a crap load of a book whilst waiting to be seen. Negative: I had to wait for an hour only to get crappy news and have nothing except the crappy book I had to read. This completely ruined my day and brought back a lot of other problems. Life yet again throws a curveball (baseball reference – see I’m learning).

Friday however was fairly ordinary and life did nothing but plod along taking me in its wing for lectures, a lot of reading, meetings, home and gym. Which led to Saturday where gym also occurred as well as some reading. But in the end, it led to many friends on my bed, lots of drinking, a terrible hangover and yet more sobering realisations that I probably, and very dangerously, vomited in my sleep. Not cool. Fast forward to Monday (now) where I am documenting the week’s distractions, which in itself is a distraction from reading more university stuff and researching. I’ll catch up this week before an AWESOME NFL WEEKEND!

I guess I’m easily distracted.

Word Count: 312

Reading: Lucky Man. A memoir – Michael J. Fox

The Dissertation Diary – 32,500 verbs and adjectives

Thirty two thousand, five hundred words. Over the course of the next year, that’s how much I have to write – minimum. The bulk of that will be my dissertation, but the rest is all the little essays, presentations and commentaries.

If you want to put that in to perspective, that’s around 16 average sized essays over a year. Or half an average novel. Or 31,750 more sensical words than the average Ultimate Warrior WWF promo. I must admit that it’s a bit daunting. It’s a bit daunting to do the entire 10,000 word short story, even though I mostly have it sussed. I have to research several elements of this to get it right. First I have to find the right affliction (which I think I have). Then I have to map the route this journey will take. Then I have to think practically how these people in their situation can get to the even they are meant to get to so that I can navigate them to the end of the story. In between that I have to create some dramatic tension, a sense of relation with the reader and I have to right confidently enough and strongly enough that I can hook a reader with the first paragraph and keep them there for the next 9,600 words.

Thats the last thing of course. Before then, I have lots of smaller tasks, at least 15 books to read, analyse, discuss and critique. Oh woe is me (sarcasm). You know, I chose this path for my life. I was aware, although somewhat less informed at the time, of the gravity of my choice. What I would have to do, the level of maturity and commitment it would take to develop not only my skills but my mind and my attitude towards this career of writing.

Writing is solitary confinement for the emotionally crippled and the socially self-masochistic. Over the past two years, I’ve desperately tried, as I probably did for the years previous to that, to hang on to the last strands of youth. To find what I always craved in love and muse and to actually be happy and productive. I now know that can’t happen. I don’t mean that in a defeatist depressing way at all. Lots of people can find happiness in life and work. I however am not one of them, at least not at this stage in my life.

What’s with all this emotional baggage, Sean? Well, it’s precisely this: I need to forget all of that. Everything. I need to exist in the bubble of reading, writing and creating. I need to forget the late nights boozing with people years my junior. I need to leave the baggage I’ve created for myself with love. I need to forgo any commitments for the most part that detract from the pursuit of writing. There’s a picture next to my desk on the wall of one of my favourite movies, Casablanca. Champagne is being poured in glasses on a piano that Sam is playing. Rick Blaine is pouring it whilst looking directly as Ilsa Lund who is looking away and down, unable to meet his eye. Because she knows deep down the truth of the matter that this around her, her wish, cannot be. Rick realises this and starts the process of sacrificing for their benefit.

In the same way, I must sacrifice all of this for the attitude of writing. If I don’t, then how can I call myself a writer or continue as one post-university? I need to get this frame of mind practiced and the year long task of producing as many words as half a novel serves no better purpose than to do that. If I can do this then I can do anything. Some things, as I’ve come to learn the hard way, are harder to let go than others. Some I don’t think ever truly leave you. But as I tweeted recently I know when I publish that first book what the dedication will be. It might lay some ghosts to rest, or it might excise them. Either way, then is the time for reflection and for life. Until then I must carry on with this plane of thought because if I don’t, to paraphrase Rick, I’ll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. But someday and for the rest of my life.

Sean sits in front of his computer and starts typing the end of his story in full. This final paragraph will serve as his goal to reach. Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap.


Word Count: 312

Reading: Waterland – Graham Swift; Japanese Phrases for Dummies – Eriko Sato PhD.