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Alansjf (Alansjf)
Username: Alansjf

Registered: 09-2008
Posted From: 94.194.134.45
Posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009 - 01:41 am:   

This is one for the writers, but if anyone else has an opinion, feel free to chip in ...

Recently I've been posting chapters of a 28,000 word novella at an online workshop. On the whole the response has been pretty favourable, but ever since I posted the last instalment - the last two chapters and the epilogue - one point in particular keeps cropping up - I should think about turning it into a novel, because novellas are damned near impossible to sell.

So far everyone who has made this point has also said they feel there is plenty of scope in the material to consider extending it to novel length, but my problem is, it was conceived and written as a novella; it does what I wanted it to do, and ends, I feel, exactly where it has to. Theoretically I do have one or two options when it comes to taking the story forward (though it's backwards, in one case), but I just don't think the potential difficulties placing a novella is reason enough to add another 30, 40,or 50, 000 words to a story I already feel has reached it's natural conclusion. And yet, the alternative may well be I end up lumbered with a novella nobody wants to publish.

So, thoughts? Am I right to go with my instincts and leave 'The End' exactly where it is, or would the more sensible - and practical - approach be to think about expanding the story to, hopefully, make it more sellable?
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Simon Strantzas (Nomis)
Username: Nomis

Registered: 09-2008
Posted From: 99.227.90.149
Posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009 - 03:17 am:   

If you don't have more to say with it, don't pad it. I'm not a novelist, so maybe I'm not the right one to ask, but if there was material there to make a novel out of, you'd know it. Were I you, I'd move on.

As for novella markets... there are a lot more now than there used to be. PS Publishing, Gray Friar, and Pendragon all leap immediately to mind. I'd shop it around and see what kind of interest it gets. Even if you can't find an immediate home for it, novellas make great additions to future short story collections -- the bump the word-count up tremendously.

Plus, who knows? Time away from it may allow the seeds of novelisation to grow and what you can't see now will become clear in a year or two. Stranger things have happened.
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Alansjf (Alansjf)
Username: Alansjf

Registered: 09-2008
Posted From: 94.194.134.45
Posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009 - 03:48 am:   

Thanks Simon.

I'm definitely erring on the side of instinct; if there was more to it, I'd've realised by now. But it struck me that the same comment kept coming up, and it's been on my mind all day.

As for PS, Grey Friar and Pendragon ... my inner pessimist me tells me I'd be punching above my weight. :-)
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Chris_morris (Chris_morris)
Username: Chris_morris

Registered: 04-2008
Posted From: 98.220.186.44
Posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009 - 06:07 am:   

I've just finished a novella myself. I agree with Simon: adding padding won't help a story sell. (Or at least it shouldn't.) Go with your instincts. I plan on adding my novella to my first story collection, in the unlikely event I ever have one.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 75.5.11.81
Posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009 - 06:27 am:   

This is one for the writers, but if anyone else has an opinion, feel free to chip in ...

Wha - you mean there's someone here that doesn't write?!?

Do what THE MIST did, Alan: have everyone run over to the store next door, fight a bunch of monsters for ten minutes, then run back like nothing ever happened.
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Simon Strantzas (Nomis)
Username: Nomis

Registered: 09-2008
Posted From: 99.227.90.149
Posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009 - 09:38 am:   

As for PS, Grey Friar and Pendragon ... my inner pessimist me tells me I'd be punching above my weight.

Ignore your inner pessimist. Aim high. You'd be amazed what some of those guys will publish. I mean, they've all published fiction by Gary Fry, and that bloke's rubbish!
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.26.90.161
Posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009 - 09:45 am:   

I can vouch for that because I've spent the most time with him. However, there's an argument that suggests that despite this, I know him least - like the guy in the woods who can distinguish between 23,000 kinds of tree bark yet can't find his way out of the cursed place. And there are ravenous foxes there, lurking in the brush . . . ah, sorry, wrong thread.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.26.90.161
Posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009 - 09:52 am:   

In response to Alan's question: my feeling is that if it's a novella and you have to add 50K words, then it'll show. And it'll be a nightmare logistically. I'd let the novella lie, and start a properly planned novel. Even if you can't place the novella anyway immediately, you can think of it instead as a vital and valuable step on your way writing at length. So it goes: start with short stories, move on to novellas, and then tackle a novel.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.26.90.161
Posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009 - 10:05 am:   

Now I think, I do actually have experience of this: I wrote a half a Lovecraftian novella three years ago that wasn't working out. It was going to be around 30K words. But after 12K, I pulled it and then re-imagined the whole thing, switching the story around and maintaining only its bare bones; hell, the original was about a bunch of workmen going to work at an old house; the finished version was about a family going to live in the village in which the old house was located. So it was that my original novella became a novel. A complete overhaul. Padding and elaboration just wouldn't have worked. I guess that's like trying to turn a small car into a pickup truck by only putting on the requisite bodywork.
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Alansjf (Alansjf)
Username: Alansjf

Registered: 09-2008
Posted From: 94.194.134.45
Posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009 - 10:23 am:   

There was no point with mine where I ran into problems and had to consider any kind of major rewrite - before I started writing I expected to come in at around 25k-30k, and that's exactly what happened.

To be honest, I would have been a little surprised if anyone had come back with 'Pad that sucker out, aim for 100K words minimum!' (or words to that effect). The suggestions that caused all this ruminating to begin with were made with the best of intentions, I'm sure, but in whatever alternate world where I do go ahead and turn it into a novel, I bet there'll be at least one review that begins, 'Now this would have made a great novella ...'

So novella it is. But I'd be interested to see if anyone can come up with a persuasive counter-argument ...
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.26.90.161
Posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009 - 10:34 am:   

Pad that sucker out, aim for 100K words minimum!
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.26.90.161
Posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009 - 10:38 am:   

Yeah, Alan, the point I was making above, and failed to mention:-), was that when I decided to make my story a novel, I found it impossible to stretch it in its existing form to 80K. I had to thoroughly replot. I suspect that if even a completed novella is stretched like that, the logistics would be formidable. It'd be far easier to start a different, or at least a hugely modified project, from scratch.
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Alansjf (Alansjf)
Username: Alansjf

Registered: 09-2008
Posted From: 94.194.134.45
Posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009 - 10:50 am:   

Actually, now that my second cup of coffee is kicking in, I'm thinking a trilogy ... :-)

But seriously, as I mentioned in my first post I could, in theory, take some major elements of the backstory and get a wealth of new material that way ... but then it wouldn't be the same story. The whole focus would change. More importantly it would feel like padding, because I'd only be doing it to hopefully end up with a novel, and not because the existing novella doesn't work as it is.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.26.90.161
Posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009 - 11:14 am:   

Well, I guess only you can say for sure. You could always pare it down and make it into a short story. :-)
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Karim Ghahwagi (Karim)
Username: Karim

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 80.163.6.13
Posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009 - 11:23 am:   

And then pare the short story down to a piece of flash fiction, and then extend that into a novel for a trilogy.
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Alansjf (Alansjf)
Username: Alansjf

Registered: 09-2008
Posted From: 94.194.134.45
Posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009 - 11:29 am:   

Or haiku:

Shadows writhe, above;
Angels in the mind - or real?
Wake, or sleep forever ...
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 78.22.227.177
Posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009 - 12:25 pm:   

I don't see why two versions - novella and novel - of the same story couldn't coŽxist. I'd try to expand the novella, but only where it's sensible to do so - no padding for the sake of padding, like Stephen King does. Who wants yet another 'horror' Peyton Place? Reread your piece carefully and take note of elliptic passages or descriptions which could be expanded, to name but two instances. Of course, if you emphatically feel that your yarn cannot be bettered and is well-nigh perfect as it is, don't bother.
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Simon Strantzas (Nomis)
Username: Nomis

Registered: 09-2008
Posted From: 99.227.90.149
Posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009 - 12:33 pm:   

...So it goes: start with short stories, move on to novellas, and then tackle a novel.

I don't subscribe to this thinking at all. It's like saying "start drawing, then painting, then taking photographs". Sure, there may be some lesser skills that get improved, but overall they're different artforms and one does not naturally beget the next. I suspect the transition of writers from shorts to novels has more to do with confidence-building than skill building.
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Alansjf (Alansjf)
Username: Alansjf

Registered: 09-2008
Posted From: 94.194.134.45
Posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009 - 12:46 pm:   

I wouldn't go as far as calling it well-nigh perfect, Hubert, but it functions as a novella, and if anything I've been trimming bits here and there rather than adding them. The possibility exists of telling a version of the same story another way, at novel length, but to tell it the way I wanted to - the way that felt right to me - I only needed around 28,000 words.
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Mark_lynch (Mark_lynch)
Username: Mark_lynch

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.171.129.73
Posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009 - 02:28 pm:   

Check out Joe Lansdale's novella 'Mad Dog Summer' and his novel of the same story, THE BOTTOMS; good way of seeing what you have to do to make one into the other. I still don't know which version of the tale I prefer.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.26.90.161
Posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009 - 03:05 pm:   

>>>I suspect the transition of writers from shorts to novels has more to do with confidence-building than skill building.

Sure, I can dig that. It's also about learning to stretch out that 1% inspiration throughout the 99% perspiration that longer works require.

Actually, Simon, I think - on a page by page basis - writing short stories is probably harder and certainly less enjoyable than writing novels. I'd rather write 10 pages of a novel than a 10 page short story.

But you're right: each form has its unique demands to overcome.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.26.90.161
Posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009 - 03:07 pm:   

The major difference for me is that once you're only halfway through a short story, the end is nonetheless in sight. When you're only halfway through a novel, it's still effing miles away. It's getting over that mid-stage panic that's the hardest part of writing at such length.
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Mark West (Mark_west)
Username: Mark_west

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.39.177.173
Posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009 - 04:05 pm:   

I'd agree with that, Gary!
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.26.90.161
Posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009 - 04:41 pm:   

And the way to overcome it is to put your head down and don't even look for the end.
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Simon Strantzas (Nomis)
Username: Nomis

Registered: 09-2008
Posted From: 38.113.181.169
Posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009 - 06:29 pm:   

And the way to overcome it is to put your head down and don't even look for the end.

That's good, as your reader will never find one!
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 78.22.227.177
Posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009 - 09:12 pm:   

It helps if you stick to a 'plan of operations'. If you set out to write, say, 1,000 words per diem (a feasable average, methinks), you can calculate how long it will take you to write the first draft. Some days 1,000 words is a breeze, while on other days . . .
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Steve Bacon (Stevebacon)
Username: Stevebacon

Registered: 09-2008
Posted From: 90.210.209.169
Posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009 - 09:44 pm:   

There are some great posts on this thread, all extremely valid.
I'm going through a similar process myself, but on a different scale; my short story is expanding into the realms of a possible novella. Whilst it's a different question to the one Alan posed, my query would be this - should I expand my short story into a novella, or trim off as much as I can to get it down to an acceptable level? Currently I'm at around 15k, which is short for a novella, and too big to fit a short story market...

I suppose the honest answer is to tell the story in as many words as it takes, and forget about the word count.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.26.90.161
Posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009 - 09:45 pm:   

Yeah. That last bit.

15K is a novelette, isn't it? Probably even fewer markets for those suckers, alas.
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Alansjf (Alansjf)
Username: Alansjf

Registered: 09-2008
Posted From: 94.194.134.45
Posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009 - 11:02 pm:   

I suppose the honest answer is to tell the story in as many words as it takes, and forget about the word count.

That's what it comes down. It's just a pity that in the case of novellas (and yes, novelettes), word count can become an issue afterwards. Though to be honest I'd rather have an unplaced novella I'm happy with languishing on my hard drive than a novel that really shouldn't be a novel at all.
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Simon Strantzas (Nomis)
Username: Nomis

Registered: 09-2008
Posted From: 99.227.90.149
Posted on Friday, August 07, 2009 - 12:26 am:   

The advantage one has once he or she has a few publications under the belt is that the drive to get everything published wanes and the idea of spending a long time writing that doesn't get published right away isn't so repulsive.
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Karim Ghahwagi (Karim)
Username: Karim

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 80.163.6.13
Posted on Friday, August 07, 2009 - 12:55 am:   

Alan: 'Though to be honest I'd rather have an unplaced novella I'm happy with languishing on my hard drive...'

and printed out and lying in a drawer, and uploaded to a mail account- for when the hard drive crashes.
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Karim Ghahwagi (Karim)
Username: Karim

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 80.163.6.13
Posted on Friday, August 07, 2009 - 01:03 am:   

I would much rather read the novella than the 150 pages of filler just to make it a novel, unless of course if really does add additional layers, or deeper meaning, without sacrificing those things that make the story move effectivly, I could imagine. Sometimes I find that some novels feel like novellas that have been lengthened so that they conform to an approx 100K wordage etc.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 91.110.157.29
Posted on Friday, August 07, 2009 - 09:00 am:   

100,000 words is a pretty long novel. There might be a justification for that length, or there might not. "That's how long a novel has to be" isn't one. "That's how long a novel has to in order to be discounted through Barnes & Noble, and therefore to get published" is one, apparently.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 91.110.157.29
Posted on Friday, August 07, 2009 - 09:04 am:   

Don't get me wrong. Long novels are fine. Short novels are usually better. Novellas are often better still. And short stories are often best of all. The trouble is that mainstream publishers evaluate quantitatively, not qualitatively. Writers don't just produce by the inch.
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Alansjf (Alansjf)
Username: Alansjf

Registered: 09-2008
Posted From: 94.194.134.45
Posted on Friday, August 07, 2009 - 09:50 am:   

and printed out and lying in a drawer, and uploaded to a mail account- for when the hard drive crashes.

I always keep copies on a separate flash drive, even notes and drafts, plus a hard copy of anything I finish. It's only sensible.
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Simon Strantzas (Nomis)
Username: Nomis

Registered: 09-2008
Posted From: 99.227.90.149
Posted on Friday, August 07, 2009 - 11:42 am:   

I have four to five different backups of everything I've written. I don't bother with hard copies though as I save everything in RTF which is as future-proof as possible at the moment.

Two of those backups are stored far away from my home. The only way I'd loose all my writing would be if Canada itself were destroyed, or some EMP ruined all electronics everywhere. If either of those things happened, I doubt I'd be in a situation where I'd care anymore about earthly concerns.
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Karim Ghahwagi (Karim)
Username: Karim

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 80.163.6.13
Posted on Friday, August 07, 2009 - 01:20 pm:   

Unless the poles of the earth switch ends Simon- worse than an EMP for electronics perhaps...So you don't actually print out one master hard copy?- just to have a so-called real tangible manuscript? You loose out on what Peter Straub calls 'The Big Sexy Manuscript.' Whether it is a screenplay or a short film etc, the thing doesn't exist for me unless it is printed out, or rendered and burned to DVD or tape, and I can physically hold it in my hand. I don't know, this extends to my opinion on having books instead of electronic files, etc- though I can still read digital stuff- but prefer to hold the real tangible thing in my hand.

On shorts vs novels: was it Ballard who said that there are perfect short stories, but no perfect novels?

On the 100K length, yes I feel that some contemporary commercial novels certainly feel like they have been stretched somewhat, in order to conform to certain conventions of length etc, especially for instance, in the current commercial crime and thriller department- though it seems more like it is an issue relating to conventions of form now- But look at the older detective or crime stuff- Hammett etc, their stuff was 60-75K?. Ample space to make a good tight mystery.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.26.90.161
Posted on Friday, August 07, 2009 - 01:33 pm:   

>>>The only way I'd loose all my writing would be if Canada itself were destroyed

It's one helluva of a motivation, though. Surprised you've made this public.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.26.90.161
Posted on Friday, August 07, 2009 - 01:35 pm:   

I totally agree with Karim on the physicality of fiction. I like cultural artefacts that can give me papercuts.
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Simon Strantzas (Nomis)
Username: Nomis

Registered: 09-2008
Posted From: 38.113.181.169
Posted on Friday, August 07, 2009 - 01:55 pm:   

No, I'm not tied to the physicality of the work. I used to print them out, just like you, but I just ended up with binders full of pages I never looked at. All the printed pages are are space to me that I could be using for other things. For me, a story is "final" when I say "I'm done.". I dont need the talisman of a hard copy. So far I don't feel cheated at all. Frankly I feel liberated; liberated from the anchor more clutter in my life brings.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Friday, August 07, 2009 - 02:11 pm:   

"On shorts vs novels: was it Ballard who said that there are perfect short stories, but no perfect novels?"

So true. There should be much fewer novels, and most of those that exist should be shorter.

Of course, if you're a commercial publisher, a novel is a perishable commodity (a Random House editor recently asserted that the natural shelf life of a book should be that of a fresh yoghurt: two weeks), so all this talk of quality is just hot air. It comes, it sells, it goes, something else comes along, who cares? It has the thickness, and the paragraph length, and the sentence length, and the average number of letters per word, that the market demands. End of story.

End of story.
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Simon Strantzas (Nomis)
Username: Nomis

Registered: 09-2008
Posted From: 38.113.181.169
Posted on Friday, August 07, 2009 - 02:23 pm:   

Then we get into the question of who demands it: the reader or the publisher? Which dictates the other? Are readers interested in trash and the publishers are complying, or do the publishers publish crap and the readers read it because they don't know any better?

An argument can be made that people are so much busier today that they don't have the mental energy to devote to serious reading, and instead want junk fiction because it's easier to mentally digest. I prefer that idea, frankly, to the modern reader just being too wilfully ignorant to know any better.
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 78.22.227.177
Posted on Friday, August 07, 2009 - 02:35 pm:   

people are so much busier today that they don't have the mental energy to devote to serious reading

Agreed.
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Weber_gregston (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.176.105.47
Posted on Friday, August 07, 2009 - 02:36 pm:   

Edukashun iznt werkin. peepol r thik
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Karim Ghahwagi (Karim)
Username: Karim

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 80.163.6.13
Posted on Friday, August 07, 2009 - 03:53 pm:   

Simon I was thinking about the 'physicality' aspect of the work as Gary said above, but also about its relation to digital visual work for example- I like also, the 'physicality' again of standing next to an actual Francis Bacon painting for instance- 'the taisman of the hard copy' as you say Simon. I guess we give the thing as much power as we give of oursevles to it. I'm also thinking of all my drives with found video footage-for example, when it comes to backing up, and having drives filled with stuff...
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Karim Ghahwagi (Karim)
Username: Karim

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 80.163.6.13
Posted on Friday, August 07, 2009 - 03:58 pm:   

'talisman' it should be above.
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Karim Ghahwagi (Karim)
Username: Karim

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 80.163.6.13
Posted on Friday, August 07, 2009 - 05:52 pm:   

Or the evil boogeyman of unbacked-up files will haunt you.

grin
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Simon Strantzas (Nomis)
Username: Nomis

Registered: 09-2008
Posted From: 38.113.181.169
Posted on Friday, August 07, 2009 - 09:31 pm:   

I suppose I prefer the physicality of the work printed in a proper book than from my half-dead laser printer.

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