Tuesday, January 11, 2011


My normal procedure at the start of a new year is to launch unprepared into a new book. Often I have a plan, or at least a vague idea of what it's going to be about. Sometimes I even start by plotting some scenes out and trying to create some kind of shape for the whole thing. Once I even wrote 'The illusion of free will' in pretentious black marker on a strip of paper which I then taped to the top of my monitor. But mostly I start with the first sentence that comes into my head and go from there.

This, my friends, is not a recipe for swift authorial success and great literary acclaim. It can be a good short story writing exercise, such as with my much-ignored masterpiece, Martin Scorcese's Underpants,* but generally doesn't work at novel length.

So this year I thought I'd do things a bit differently. To be fair, last year's novel isn't actually finished yet, so I need to get on with that and then decide whether it's a pile of steaming ordure or not. But I've also been revisiting past works with a view to actually trying to get myself an agent, if not an actual publisher, in 2011. Mostly this has meant reading stuff and wincing in embarrassment. Not all of it is execrable rubbish though, and some of it's really quite good, which pains me when I think of some of the terrible dross I waded through last year that had somehow made it past editors and buying committees and out into the real world.**

Sadly it appears that mainstream publishing is not ready for the brilliance that is The Ballad of Sir Benfro, and may not be for some time. I can see their reasoning - it's a dragon fantasy series, after all. So one of my tasks in 2011 will be to put the first book out as an ebook - possibly free or very cheap indeed - and see if I can make this whole social networking thing drum up a bit of interest. I need to sort out some kind of cover that looks good in postage stamp thumbnail size, but that shouldn't be too hard.

SF remains a very hard field to break into, and if I'm being honest my most recent attempt at an SF novel falls somewhere between the execrable rubbish and embarrassing tags. My first ever attempt at SF (and writing a novel, for that matter) remains a great story in need of rewriting so it doesn't read like a first attempt at writing a novel. I started the process some years ago, but had to put it aside when Benfro started to attract some (small as it turned out) attention. Something to go back to just as soon as I've found out how to be organised, methinks.

And then there's Head,*** a funny little thing I wrote in a previous century and which nobody but Mr Stuart has ever read. Nowadays it would be called urban fantasy, but I don't think that name had been invented back then. Everyone's mad for vampires and zombies these days, so maybe my little dig at conspiracy theories deserves another spin on the rejection letter cycle.

Head also features the first prose appearance of my reluctant psychic and detective, Tony McLean, although only in a supporting role. He first appeared in a comic script I wrote for 2000AD, probably before some of you were born. Then I dredged him up again for this little story, which was meant to set the world alight, but didn't. He finally got his starring role in Natural Causes, followed up by The Book of Souls, both short-listed for the Debut Dagger, as I keep having to remind myself on dark days. Those books deserve another crack of the whip, and will form the vanguard in my renewed assault on the literary establishment.

At least that's what I'm telling myself at the moment. It could be that I'm just pissing about re-reading old stuff rather than getting on with the new. Your guess is as good as mine. But it begs the question: when should you stop flogging a dead horse sending out the same old manuscript? How many hints does it take before you realise your writing stinks?

Then again, there's all that published excrement out there, so maybe it really is just a case of banging your head against the wall until something breaks.

Or I could just give up and go be a farmer. Beef anyone?

* and yes, I didn't know how to spell his name when the phrase popped into my head. It should, of course, be Scorsese.
** not that I dwell on such things at too much length. It's too easy to become bitter and resentful, neither of which emotions are conducive to creativity. 
*** the pretentiously labelled one.

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Blogger Eigon said...

Your writing does not stink.
At least, judging by what you write here it doesn't - I keep coming back for more.
And remember those debut Daggers, which is more than I've ever managed - my writing has only ever got a couple of nice rejection letters!

February 08, 2011 7:25 pm  

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