Video Posted on
Finally, after many, many changes of direction I’ve finished the promotional video. It’s much more light hearted than I had originally thought, but hopefully it’ll do the job…
Thanks to the people at GoAnimate for this. It’s so simple even an idiot can use it. Obviously…
Video Posted on
Another of my jobs is to put a video together that will sell the book. This is not what I’m going to use, but it was a useful exercise, practising how to use video editing software.
I know, I know… it’s a loving homily to HG Wells and Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds. I hope it doesn’t offend anyone
After a week of fretting the contract for BNBS finally came through. It’s now official…
I’ve got loads to do. Create a promotional video, write various blurbs, somehow construct an author’s photo that looks vaguely presentable, write an author’s bio and inspiration for the book. Plus, find some favourable reviews for the book. This last one is going to be hard because not many people who aren’t close friends or family have read it. And apparently none of them carry much weight in the literary world. Some friends they are…
Anyway, the contract was pages and pages long. It wouldn’t really have mattered how many children I’d have had to sell, I still think I’d have signed it. I fully understand now how guitarists might go down to the crossroads and make a pact with the devil for something they want so badly.
One step closer… perhaps
I received an email from Britain’s Next Bestseller today accepting my proposal to promote “Entering the Weave” on their website.
I was at the cinema and I just happened to check my emails. Reading it the first time I thought it was yet another standard rejection. So I turned my phone off and enjoyed the film. It wasn’t until later that I read it properly…
I trust this email finds you well.
Thank you for submitting your manuscript, Entering the Weave, to Britain’s Next Bestseller.
Apologies for the delay in getting back to you – we have been inundated with submissions. We have finally had a chance to review your manuscript. We think it has potential, fantasy books have been popular on BNBS and would love for you to promote your book on our site with a view of landing a publishing contract.
I have attached some more information about how Britain’s Next Bestseller works and what we offer.
Makes me feel like a professional writer at last… Now I’ll start to worry that I’ve misinterpreted the email.
“There are three secrets to writing a novel.” Somerset Maugham famously begins. (And, as you can see from his picture, what Somerset says stays said.)
To understand these secrets though, I think we need to know what a novel actually is. Or what it should be.
“The main question to a novel is — did it amuse? were you surprised at dinner coming so soon? did you mistake eleven for ten? were you too late to dress? and did you sit up beyond the usual hour? If a novel produces these effects, it is good; if it does not — story, language, love, scandal itself cannot save it. It is only meant to please; and it must do that or it does nothing.” – Sydney Smith
So, a novel is an entertainment? Something designed to while away unwanted hours. But nowadays there are many other things that can do that. Candy Crush for instance. Or Angry Birds.
“Ah now! Wait just one second.” You sneer. “You can’t replace novels with silly computer puzzle games.”
No, I know. Don’t get so defensive. That’s not what I’m saying. But I know of many people who have mistaken eleven for ten or been unable to dress after a mentally strenuous session of Candy Crush. I’ve seen people walking along the street peering at their phones with less than a healthy regard for their own safety. Must-Swap-One-More-Candy.
My contention is that a novel is more than a recreational distraction. Novels teach us things. A novel can expand our minds.
“So does Candy Crush. As you said it’s a puzzle game. Keeps the brain active.” A young, probably fashionable person says from behind you.
Perhaps it does. Look, I’m not having a go at Candy Crush, but I don’t think it can offer the same intellectual challenges as a well written novel.
“Have you tried level 432?”
Two ninjas silently (obviously) remove the young person from the blog.
“What about crosswords?” A tweed-jacketed harridan shouts from somewhere over to your left. “They’re my cup of tea! Much more satisfying than made up stories!”
As an entertainment, you mean? (I am, quite frankly, rather intimidated by this crusty old lady.) Isn’t a crossword just a…
“It’s not just anything, young man! A good cryptic crossword keeps the old grey matter ticking over nicely. If I want to read something, I’ll read something huge and non-fiction.” She takes a solid step forward. The ejection ninjas have disappeared.
“A novel is never anything but a philosophy expressed in images. And in a good novel the philosophy has disappeared into the images.” – Albert Camus
This sounds great – much more rigorously clever than a smartphone app could ever hope to be.
But, even if you say it with a comedic French accent, it’s too constraining and vaguely patronising. I’m sure there are novels where the images only serve to drive a plot forward rather than serving a philosophical agenda. And I assume there are novels that express a philosophy via modern dance (almost certainly written by James Joyce)
But I think he’s on the right track. Philosophy or a philosophy can be hard to get across, and novelists are well practised in showing rather than telling, so the novel would appear to be the perfect opportunity to clear up these pesky thoughts, downloading the novelist’s ideas directly into the reader’s mind.
Also, novels can compete with crosswords when it comes to providing us with literary puzzles.
“All novels are sequels; influence is bliss.” –Michael Chabon
There are few, if any completely original novels. Someone once told me that Dostoyevsky had written a version of every single story there was, even though he’d only written seven novels. (I know it seems that he’s written sixteen of them, so perhaps this gem of information isn’t quite pure) But it’s a useful skill to understand how one novel is influenced by another. Or how a literary trick from one author can be utilised to highlight or undermine a reader’s understanding of a theme.
This can obviously be a dangerous game for the novelist though. Too much reliance on the clever references or ironic pastiche can overwhelm the reader leaving him with a cryptic crossword so unfathomable it might as well have been compiled by a hippopotamus.
For me, a perfect novel incorporates all these ideas. It will entertain, as well as enlighten. It will teach as well as intrigue. And, ideally, it will reward me for close attention to its inner workings.
“There are three secrets to writing a novel. Unfortunately nobody knows what they are.” – W. Somerset Maugham
I’ll show them!
This blog is now nearly a year old and I’m still no closer to publication.
I’ve entered and lost three writing competitions, I’ve sent “The Clockwork Butterfly” to every UK agent who purports to enjoy YA fantasy fiction, and I’ve even sent “Entering the Weave” to a publisher who claims to accept unsolicited manuscripts.
And what have I received in return?
Rejection. Or, even worse, nothing at all. Agents and judges and editors are roundly ignoring me.
Well! I’ll show them.
“What will you show them?”
I’ll show them how inexcusably wrong they are for their brush offs and cold shoulders. I’ll make them eat their form letters and standard responses. They shall rue the day they ever dared to not accept me into the halcyon pastures of the publishing world.
“And how, exactly, will you do this?”
I’ve had a new novel idea. A great, zeitgeisty idea that will redefine the very nature of books. Hardened literary agents will swoon at its audacity and grizzled editors weep with envy at its originality. And I’m going to write it fuelled by the energy of bitterness. I’m going to shout it into my keyboard, scratch it with bold, black marker pen into my notebooks. Each word shall carry the weight of revenge upon it like a medal.
“Is it a comedy?”
No! It will be a visceral indictment of today’s society. (Although there will be some funny bits)
“So… once you’ve written it, what are you going to do then? How will this revenge manifest itself?”
Well. I’ll send it to all the agents and publishing houses. And when they write their fawning emails back, begging to represent it or publish it, I shall ignore them, or send them a polite, impersonal rejection right back. That’ll teach them. It’s foolproof.
“I’m not sure, it’s quite foolproof. Have you ever heard the saying: ‘Cutting off your nose to spite your face’?”
“Aren’t you doing that?”
“Wouldn’t it be better to write a really great novel. A novel fuelled, not by revenge or bitterness, but by passion and empathy. A novel so original, so well written anyone who reads it falls in love with it.”
Hmmmm. That does sound slightly better.
They were talking about writer’s notebooks on Radio 3’s Freethinking – Writers and their notebooks (21st May 2014)
Now, I love notebooks. In fact I love all stationery (apart from hole punches which, to my mind, are too Stalinist to count as proper stationery) Everything else, however, excites me – from fountain pens to pencils, from foolscap to stencils. Perhaps it’s because I can sense the budding creativity each item might help bring forth. Or, perhaps, I’m just weird.
My love reaches its fetishistic peak with notebooks. Spiral-spined, leather bound, plain, lined, squared, A5, A4, thick or thin papered. It doesn’t matter, they are all potential receptacles for my literary lust.
Anyway, part of the programme was a short interview with David Mitchell (the author of Cloud Atlas, not the ranting comedian) and he spoke about some of the things he kept in his notebooks.
Some of the previous guests interviewed had confessed to lists of random things or conversation snippets or brief descriptions of unusual objects or scenes. All of these things are predictable and useful. I’ve done the same and enjoy flicking through an old notebook, trying to work out how the flotsam and jetsam of thought might have fitted together when I was jotting it all down.
But David Mitchell described an entirely original (to me) use for his notebooks. He writes letters in them. Fictional letters to and from the characters appearing in his current work in progress. He said it helps him get under the skin of the person he’s imagining. Obviously, from the content of the letters, he can learn explicit things about them. But he can also imply more subtle information from the style, the vocabulary, the tone.
I think this is a brilliant idea which I am going to steal. It could lead to truly interesting revelations about all sorts of people. I can write any letter, asking any question to any character at any point – before, during or after the events in my novel. Their letter back surely can only make them richer and more vivid in my mind’s eye.
One of the other tips for writing I’ve frequently heard is: “just write rubbish if you’re stuck”. There are various versions of this. A famous author, whose name I have forgotten, wrote that when she stumbled into a Writer’s Block she’d drink some gin, write two pages of nonsense and go to sleep. Upon waking she would find the Block behind her. Other luminaries have professed to writing a few hundred words of waffle first thing just to get the juices flowing, like an athlete limbering up before a race. I’ve always liked the idea, but found it impossible to find rubbish to write about. I’d end up spending half an hour trying to decide what to write and end up having to hurdle two Writer’s Blocks instead of one…
But this is perfect.
I do declare that from this day on I shall write a letter to or from one of my own characters. This time next month I shall post some of the 30 letters I’ll have written…