Saturday, October 17, 2009

Nathan Bransford's Comp Update

Nathan Bransford announced the winners of his first-paragraph competition this morning. I didn't make it, but the standard of the ten finalists is simply stunning, so I bow before Nathan's judgment.1

I hope he has another one soon. I'm keen to try again!

1 Grovelling? I have no idea what you mean.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Cloudy Wordy Thingy

This seems to be a bit of a craze at the moment, and it's very cool so I thought I would jump aboard with a word-cloud of this blog.

No surprises that "book" gets the biggest mention. And I probably shouldn't be too shocked that, on a writer's blog, the word "wine" comes up larger than "write".

Image courtesy of wordle.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Be Thankful for the Gatekeepers

Here is a recurring nightmare. If you're an aspiring author and this doesn't give you cold shivers, you should take your own pulse. You may, in fact, be dead.

It’s happened. The phone-call you’ve been waiting for has finally arrived. Your book is being published! And not just one; you're offered an advance on two more. It’s more money than you ever imagined; apparently, there is much excitement about your manuscript, and expectations are high.

You tell your friends, your acquaintances, your neighbours, anyone who will listen. People around you get bored with your constant jabbering about your book, but you don’t care. You’ve reached the unattainable. You have arrived.

The launch comes. It’s a big deal, you've invited as many people as you could think of. Artwork from the book is draped about the hall, red wine is flowing, a pile of brand-new novels stands guard next to a chirping cash-register. As you sit and sign copy after copy, your face flushed from wine and the heat of the occasion, you reflect that life couldn’t possibly get any better than this.

The next day, you start checking the review pages on all the sites you can think of. You check them five times a day, in between writing book 2 in the series. Nothing. Why can’t people read faster than this? Finally, a review. Your fingers tremble as you click the link to read it. Not good. Whoever this person is, they didn’t really get your book at all. Their review cuts like a knife, but you shake your head and force yourself to get over it. It’s only one person’s viewpoint, after all.

The days pass, and you find yourself ringing a few friends who have the book, on the pretence of idle chit-chat or a discussion about an upcoming social event. They say nothing about the novel and, in the end, you come right out and ask. After a moment’s silence, they say “Yeah, it was really good. I really enjoyed it.” But it sounds forced, awkward, and they seem keen to get you off the phone.

More reviews, each as negative as the last. Words begin to make regular appearances – “trite”, “mediocre”, “unoriginal”. Who are these people with such a damning view? Did they read your book or just the back cover? You tell yourself not to worry, it's a bad patch. The positive reviews will come soon. But they don’t. Three stars out of five is the best you get, and that’s from someone who gives five to almost everything. There’s a tone of mockery and laughter about the reviews, and a constant refrain rings like a bell in your ears: “How on earth did this get published?”

Meetings with your publisher are less than encouraging. She reassures you that sometimes books take a while to get moving, and that many great novels started off this badly. You ask for specific examples, but she simply plays with her pen and purses her lips. As time passes, she is more open. Sales are worrying. Sales are very worrying. At this rate, it looks as though you won’t earn back even a tenth of your advance.

The crunch. A meeting is called with your publisher and a very stern-faced company CEO. The talk is direct and brief. The company will not be publishing the second or third book in the series. The title has not lived up to expectations. The market has made its view abundantly clear.

Now, you don’t mention the book to anybody. Your greatest hope is that they will forget. You’ve tried to publish again, a different genre altogether, without mentioning your previous publication history. But it’s always the same. “You’re the author of that book, aren’t you?”, and the conversation is over.

And, in those bitter moments, when you sit and stare at the unopened box of books on the floor of your study, your mind always comes back to one thing. Why did that publisher tell you it was good enough? Why did she tell you that you were ready? Why did she open the door to failure and humiliation rather than snapping it shut with a quick form-letter rejection? Even you know, now, that your book is utter rubbish. You've learned so much in the interim, you're certain you could write a best-seller. All you need is a chance, a chance that will never come, because you only get one.

And yours, my friend, is gone.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Contestitis Obsessivitis

So, Nathan Bransford has a bit of time on his hands and has decided to hold another competition. I had to deliberate for all of two and a half seconds before I decided to enter, competition junky that I am. This time, entrants must submit the first paragraph of a work-in-progress, to be judged initially by Nathan and then voted upon by readers of his blog.

At last count, there were nearly 700 entries, and three days to go. Why does he do this to himself?

Anyway, here is my esteemed entry, the first paragraph from the wonderful and noble work of literature entitled: "The Book That Currently Has No Title But I Hope To Come Up With A Good One Soon."

Arkansy De-Crisp Lechampion had a recurring nightmare in which he found himself fully-clothed in a public place. He would wake in a cold-sweat and sprint about his cave, knocking into cauldrons and tables and banging into the stuffed and beautifully posed sabre-toothed rapscallion, the very one he had defeated the previous summer using nothing but a fish scaling knife and an onion on a string. The usual method, of course, but Arkansy was nothing if not old-fashioned.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Silence of the Blog

It has been a bit quiet here lately, mainly because I've been frantically trying to edit and finish the Ghost of Ping-Ling.

It's finally done! This morning, I padded down to my local post-office and handed the manuscript to a rather bored looking man behind the counter. Then I walked out and stood blinking up at a great ball of fire in the sky. They say it's called "the Sun".

To commemorate the Great Posting, I even took some photos (OK, they're not the actual posting "event", but close enough).

Those with extremely good eyesight will pick up that it is heading to Omnibus Books, a division of Scholastic here in Oz. Likely to be its first destination of many.

How do I feel? A very strange mix of emotions. Partly relieved and glad to have passed such a milestone and to be able to get into a new project. Partly as deflated as a balloon from last Saturday's party. And partly panicky that I might have got all my pages mixed up, one of my sons might have stuck something nasty in the envelope when my back was turned, or maybe if I'd only spent a few more weeks brushing up on this and that I'd have given myself a much better chance of getting it published.

Either way, that's it. The Ghost of Ping-Ling is off to fend for himself. God speed, young Dillen, fare you well.

As I was cleaning up some of my paperwork, I realised what a monumental undertaking writing a book can be (as if I needed a reminder). This inspired me to take another photo.

This shot contains two laptops, seven drafts, two notebooks, a bunch of reference books, and some rough working notes. It doesn't contain hard copies of the hundred or so drafts and attempts I never printed. It also doesn't contain several cases of red wine.

Did someone say red wine? I'm outta here.