I have an idea, elusive and shadowy, but definitely there. The shape of something. The right something. It needs to be pushed and prodded (gently), given substance by being handled. Coaxed into the light so I can see it more clearly. A story. A novel. A something…
I am not a plotter. At least, not yet. Let the characters talk. Get a flavour of their voices; the tone of their behaviour. For now leave the ‘plot’ up to them – the sequence of events and the order in which those events unfold.
The crafting and honing and structuring and arcing and three-act-versus-fiveing, and the sanding and polishing and waxing and editing and proofreading and welding and cutting and turning and trimming and changing and sewing and betareading and previewing and wrapping-up-and-tying-in-a-bowing and serving-up-on-a-dish-for-your-delectationing, all can wait.
The things I want to write down, to capture wholly, comprehensively, exhaustively and to my satisfaction, are caught up in that twisting tumbling shape. They are the shape. They are to do with being and not being; the little things and the big things; things I’ve seen and known and things I wish I had; moments and continuums.
After much discussion the working title of my second novel, An Other’s Look, has been changed to Happy Family.
I love this title because it works at so many different levels. The book is scheduled for release in early 2020 and it has now been through two rounds of developmental editing, a full line (copy) edit, and a full proofread. And some very nice things have been said about the book along the way – here are a few examples:
‘The novel feels extremely fresh and contemporary … One of the clever things about the novel is that it shows how rather than bringing families together in the same way that board games such as Monopoly, Battleship, Cluedo etc used to, AR games can be used to drive families apart and further isolate the individual from society.’
‘As a comment on the way modern day game development could affect the whole idea of the happy family, and its invasive potential repercussions for vulnerable players, it is a sobering piece of work.’
‘Its imagined snapshot of the huge part AR may have to play in the future, and the hefty price tag consumer expectation versus reality may come with … is both fascinating and terrifying in equal measures. A particularly effective scene showing the disconnect between reality and the imagined world is both perfectly imagined and genuinely frightening.’
‘Could you please tell the author that I really enjoyed this book … I could even picture the characters… and who should play them in the film!’
Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s of the last century (oh that feels bad) I had a brief but rewarding period drawing cartoons for a magazine called the Freelance Informer. Sadly, that fine magazine for the IT contracting industry has long since published its final issue but it remains a treasured memory.
I drew six panel cartoons and five strip cartoons. They are dated – this was a time when desk top publishing (DTP) was a new thing, and ‘cutting and pasting’ still meant just that (I have kept my scalpel) – and, to be honest, they’re not that funny or even that good. This was never going to be a career because I can’t draw. But I was young and immortal and knew no better. And I liked them.
Looking at them now I’m struck by their innocent air and clean finish. I remember taking great pains to remove all the working lines. and simplify the outlines as much as possible. That minimalistic approach, the polishing to hide the hard work, rears its deceptive head in almost everything I do these days. Blame the 60’s and the cartoons of Hergé and Schulz and Mad magazine. I do.
Foolishly, I didn’t keep copies of the entire magazines, only the pages on which my work appeared – again, my youthful vanity – but I do know the volume and issue numbers, so if anybody is out there that knows the dates please do share them with me. Specifically, they are:
This is my incomplete but sometimes useful list for when I am down in the weeds of editing. I’m sure you will have your own lists but these are the words, phrases and elements of punctuation that regularly get the secateurs treatment.
by (unwanted passive writing alert)
less (vs fewer)
with (see ‘by’)
American spelling or not (depending on where you’re standing)
too many commas (or too few) – I, over-comma
hyphens – I over–hyphen
semi-colons – I love semi-colons; too much;
double full stop at the end of a sentence or paragraph..
double space following a full stop
missing full stop at the end of a paragraph
“” vs ‘
Feel free to add your own items in the comments box below.
If you fancy some lunchtime conversation, tune into the Frome FM Book Club (96.6FM or online) on Friday, 27th April, at 1pm. I will be talking about An Other’s Look and how I came to write it.
I’m doubly excited about this because we’ll also be discussing Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick and The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen. My book in such exalted company!
My next few months are now defined – crowdfunding my new novel, An Other’s Look, which is going to be published by Unbound. The site has gone live and here it is!
I spent all last year writing it, following the Stephen King model: I wrote the first draft as fast as I could, kept it hidden and let it brew. Only after the second draft was complete did I let it out for peer review. And then a third draft before submitting it. (No doubt there will be a few more when the editors get their hands on it.) It worked. I think. Well, I’ll find out
Sager minds than mine who have been through this crowdfunding process more than once advise me that it can be even tougher the second time around. I didn’t think that was possible.
I hope I’ve learned something since I worked with Unbound on The Wrong Story. I’ve prepared my leaflets ahead of time and I’m looking forward to the windy, rainy days when I can stand on street corners handing them out. Not sure Stephen King does that, but you never know. Actually, I hope he doesn’t because he should be at home in the warm writing more novels. If he wants any leaflets handing out, I’ll do it.
Anyway, returning to topic, we’ve enhanced the reward levels so that now, pledging is as much about pre-ordering one or more paperback copies as supporting the novel’s publication. There will also be bundle options, book club rewards and aspiring writer’s workshops on the reward list.
I’ve improved the video too by keeping my face out of it for as much as possible. That was a definite plus. Of course, I show up in it towards the end – it would be rude not to, but by that time I hope the message has come across and people aren’t too distracted by what appears to be me looking into a spoon. Stephen King n