Friday, 27 February 2009
Thursday, 19 February 2009
What if I was to tell you that for ten pounds you could turn your Word document into a paperback book, printed in trade size on decent-ish paper, perfect-bound, private to you? That you need only spend about forty minutes uploading the document, tweaking the cover text (adding pictures if you want) and paying online. That within five days you would be holding the book - a BOOK not a manuscript - in your hands, shaped to your hands, readable on the train or the bath or in bed. And that the ten pounds includes postage.
This could just be the best ten pounds I ever spent. Already I feel differently about the story, the characters, the impact, the marketability of the book. And I've not even started reading it yet.
The ten pounds was spent at Lulu, for those who haven't guessed already. Probably cheaper than the cost of printing the manuscript out again on A4 paper. And a whole lot more satisfying. I intend to proof all my stuff this way from now on. Don't be put off by the "self-publishing" tag at the website. This isn't publishing, it's proofing. You can keep the book private, it isn't for sale on their site, just for you to be able to read it like a book instead of a ream of paper. Try it and see.
Sunday, 15 February 2009
A crime novel about the dark world of art - what an excellent idea! Publishers (and agents) please take note.
Saturday, 14 February 2009
At this point, not surprisingly, I experience a depression. It lasts hours, maybe days. I don't just feel rejected, I feel stupid (why can't I get it RIGHT??) and ashamed and talentless and humiliated and guilty on behalf of all the people I've whipped into a sense of anticipation, including my readers here, friends, family etc. After I've hit rock bottom (hello again) I start to claw my way up out of sheer bloody-mindedness. At this point I begin to re-examine the agent's letter, trying to see past the "I'm very sorry to say", gathering every crumb of consolation and doing my best to see pearls of wisdom in what at first sight seemed to be hard words of criticism.
Here we go then.
The first thing I need to remember is that this is the leading UK crime agent. THE agent, none bigger than this. She liked my writing enough to request the full manuscript, to spend time reading, to ask her colleagues to look at it (all this is in the letter), to write two pages of constructive criticism. She also asked to see the next novel, a synopsis of which I sent with the first. This must mean that she likes my characters, and the series concept doesn't suck. That's a fairly big bit of silver lining right there. To come to the nitty gritty in the letter:
Your writing has much to recommend it - as indeed your writing CV leads one to expect. It is controlled and intelligent, with an almost poetic feel in places. It was distinctly atmospheric and chilly - accentuated by the rarefied elements of the world you depict.Pure silver. Now for the cloud:
I'm very sorry to say, however, that we are not going to be able to take this story on. For all the positives, we just feel it is going to be a very hard sell in the current publishing climate.Big cloud, black. Mining on, here come the pearls of wisdom (I ignore these at my peril):
In some ways your undoubted descriptive skills caused problems as it felt overly descriptive to the expense of story and tension - there was a lot of scene setting and dialogue with a slight lack of action to counterbalance it. In the absence of a great deal of tension there ought to be strong characterisation or a sufficiently engaging 'puzzle' element, and again I think the script fell down a little in those areas.There was plenty more to get my teeth into but I won't bore you with the fine details as they don't mean much out of context. She ended the letter by saying she'd be happy to read the first three chapters of the second novel if I'd like to send it to her. This effectively means I get a free pass through the first circle (the pitch) and go straight to second base. I did what I've learned to do in these instances: I emailed her, thanking her for her kind and helpful feedback and asking if she'd be interested or willing to see a redraft of the novel if I decided to edit it based on her comments. She emailed straight back to say, 'I think that I would prefer to see the next novel... starting afresh and reading it for its own merits. Perhaps bearing in mind the feedback on the first novel could help with the next novel as well? – ensuring there is a balance between the descriptions/ dialogue and sufficient action or new developments to keep a strong momentum, taking care to ensure the investigation feels as realistic as it can, ensuring the readers warm to X enough...'
So this is where I'm up to. I can start a new novel (which, let's face it, I'm going to do anyway; if I was capable to stopping I'd have done so after the first three rejections which hurt like hell) and/or continue sending out the first one to new agents, see what gives. Sounds like a plan, but I do have to quote from Prick up your Ears with reference to the 'write another one' angle because I don't want anyone to imagine I can just knock these things out willy-nilly. So here's a little snippet of dialogue courtesy of Alan Bennett, performed to perfection by Alfred Molina. Just insert "write a book" for "have a wank" and you get the picture:
"Have a wank? Have a wank? I can't just have a wank. I need three days' notice to have a wank. You can just stand there and do it. Me, it's like organizing D-Day. Forces have to be assembled, magazines bought, the past dredged for some suitably unsavoury episode, the dog-eared thought of which can still produce a faint flicker of desire! Have a wank, it'd be easier to raise the Titanic."Don't mind me, I'm off to raise the Titantic (again). And thank you, dear readers, for your patience, tolerance and warmth, for not dropping me like a hot scone when all the evidence suggests I am a very cold and stale scone. You are a constant boon and a solace.
Tuesday, 10 February 2009
List at least five things you do to support and spread a love of the written word, then tag five people. (If you list something that touches youngsters, you get a bonus letter!)
1. Going straight for the bonus points, I read with my eight year old, I buy books with her, I encourage her to read and write. Her enthusiasm for stories is one of the chief pleasures in my life.
2. I'm part of an online writing forum that sets challenges, comments on other people's work and generally sparks off wonderful adventures in writing.
4. I write with a buddy, swap story recommendations, blog about my experiences in publishing, read stories at Every Day Fiction and elsewhere, commenting and encouraging wherever I can (and learning from this process ways in which to improve my own writing).
5. This one's a bit daft. I leave books in the canteen at work, and sometimes on trains. Paperbacks I've finished and enjoyed but not enough to keep as my bookshelves are over-flowing. I once discovered a new author this way, picking up a stray paperback from the top of a filing cabinet at work (and returning it afterwards).
6. I gift anthologies to fund-raising events and friends and family around the globe.
Monday, 9 February 2009
Sunday, 8 February 2009
Friday, 6 February 2009
One fly jumped on the other's back. In plain view! Quickly Tom struck a match and held it to the bastards. Wings sizzled. Buzz-buzz. Legs stuck in the air and flailed their last. Ah, Liebestod, united even in death! If it could happen in Pompeii, why not at Belle Ombre, Tom thought.