Whoooo Hoooo!

Sometimes, sometimes it all seems worth it. It all falls into place and you realise yes you are doing the right thing. For the first time in your entire life you sit back, relax and say (sotto voice) “that’ll do donkey, that’ll do”. So why am I talking to myself. Well just click on the linky thing above and you’ll see. I’m saying nothing till you’ve done that……..

Ok, done it. Thank you, it means a lot. Wow! First off a big thank you to the Wilbur and Niso Smith Foundation for the support and vote of thanks. Secondly congrats to all the other short-listed authors. May the best story win, and we all get to go to a proper award ceremony (hi-five everybody). I think I am right in saying that this is probably one of the major global prizes for un-published authors so it’s a pretty big deal and a real boost to all our writing careers just to be nominated. It already shows we have what it takes in terms of story telling to grab the judges and by definition the readers attention. If you want a brief run down on the novels and shortlisted writers you can find it here.  Yeah sorry about the photo, unfortunately it’s what I look like.

I am also really pleased that the prize is for an adventure novel one of the oldest forms of story telling, although you would be forgiven if you thought that it had been somewhat eclipsed by the thriller and crime genres in the last few years. Every genre needs to re-invent itself and keep itself relevant and this award does just that.

So what happens next. Well it gets better. We all get the expert editorial advice of a gentleman by the name of David G Llewelyn, who if you believe some of the testimonials on his website is known in the trade as “the book whisperer”. No dunno what it means either, but it sounds impressive. The aim of David’s work is to get the novels in to a form where he believes (and we will obviously believe him) they are suitable for submission to agents/publishers. So the next three months are going to be about doing whatever he says 🙂

Ok I’m off for a lie down before the real work starts.

See you out there.

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Posted in agents and publishers, awards, Feedback, first novel, literary prizes, reviews, Writing, writing prizes | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Schhhh…….

I can’t tell you! I just can’t tell you….well not yet anyway.

I know, I know, radio silence and then all mysterious. There is a reason but all that will become clear next week. So what have I been up to in the last six weeks or so?

Well Ben and I have been doing this slow dance of attrition whereby he tells me to do something, I whinge about it, then eventually do as he suggested and see that he was right all along. The net result of all of this is that the following things have happened to the novel.

  1. It is definitely an adventure story. We have nailed the genre and the plot issues  that flow from that.
  2. The novel is now structured into seven sections. Each one having it’s own mini arc, a bit like an episode from a particularly good Netflix series (hint hint Netflix it would make a very good mini series)
  3. For each section I have a key question/challenge for my hero Francis Perrin which must be resolved/answered by the end.
  4. All other narrative/plot arcs are secondary to the main narrative thrust of the section.
  5. Perrin has to be more defined as a potential hero. The reader must root for him and be on his side. Up until now he was too passive and  a bit of w wet blanket. This must stop!
  6. I have now re-written Parts I & II with the above in mind and am awaiting detailed feedback from Ben on Part I.

Has all of this been worth it? Yes, although I admit I couldn’t see the point of it at times, the place where the novel is now is far superior to where it was prior to all of this shenanigans. So I am now keen to finish revising the whole book based on the agreed criteria. The plot has sharpened and I have changed a couple of key elements and going to add a few more, including a “darkest hour” scene to really pile on the pressure for my hero in waiting.

So all well and good, and that’s without the amazing news which I can only tell you about next week when the embargo comes off. Oh you tease. Yup but It’ll be worth it I promise.

See You out there.

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Everybody, meet Ben. Ben, meet everybody.

Well in todays exciting instalment of how to write a novel in several hundred easy steps we meet Ben. Ben is my new mentor and editor, courtesy of those nice people at Cornerstones I mentioned last time. Ben and I have exchanged emails about life the universe and everything and I have come to the conclusion that he is an excellent judge of literary merit. To prove my point here is a quote from one of his emails.

“So here we go … first thoughts.  I loved so much about this novel: the sharpness, invention and sheer liveliness of so many scenes convinced me you will be able to knock this into potentially publishable shape further down the line.

Ok, that’s it folks , game over. Slam dunk to me, just send  royalties to my house in the south of France. What, you don’t believe me gentle reader. You think I might be guilty of selective editing and embellishing the truth of the situation. Hmmm, OK there is a lot more and it’s all valid, well thought though and pertinent. But hey, let me have my small moment of victory and bask in a bit of “oooh, it might actually come true”. There is a clue lurking in the “further down the line” bit. A long way down in fact. It appears I’ve just got on the train at Exeter having bought a ticket for Aberdeen, or possibly Hong Kong.

So what are we going to do first? Well we are going to discuss what is the primary genre I am writing in, as that will then inform how my hero develops/is motivated and bought properly to life. For the purposes of the discussion we are going to debate the merits of the adventure story vs. the thriller; something which I never even considered as being relevant when I started. I just had a story to tell. But the demands on the hero are very different. Why is this important? Well because the reader expects different things, and the readers are different too. For an example of what I mean, this article is a good introduction to the issues a writer needs to consider. Which I didn’t.

In other news, thanks to those good folk at WHQ I have developed a brand new wholly unrelated idea for another novel, set in a near future where mankind has lost all its accumulated knowledge and been cast back into a feudal society complete with a vicious religious order who are a cross between the Spanish inquisition and the mafia. More on that at a (much) later date. Oh I also have another slot on the radio for one of my short stories. That reminds me I really should update that part of the site with some of my recent efforts….

See You out there.

 

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Ohhh FFS!

Sometimes you just have to put your hands in the air and say “mea culpa”  or “you have me sir like a treen in a disabled spaceship”. Ten bonus points to anybody who can tell me where I lifted that quote from. Why the exasperation I hear you cry gentle reader? Well basically I started my novel with an absolute humdinger of an idea, really good, and I’m not just saying that ‘cos it’s good. It really is! But, and it’s a really big but(t) I now realise I made a rookie mistake. Putting plot before character. This is not to say I don’t have characters, some good ones too (as others have kindly said), however due to rank stupidity/ignorance I neglected to establish the clear emotional and physical drivers for my main character Perrin.

Initially this was a conscious decision. I wanted him to be a blank canvas and emerge fully formed at the end of the book as the result of everything that happened to him. In other words the story shapes him and he becomes a real person, ready to deal with life the universe and everything in the next instalment. The problem with this approach in the real world of getting a novel published is that this flies against the accepted formula of creating a character, where you need to establish the physical and emotional drivers that motivate him and the conflict/issue that prevents him/her achieving those goals at the outset. To be honest Perrin has no other goal than surviving his first meeting with Babbage and Herschel. He has no idea what he wants and no idea of the problems facing him. He is naïve, innocent and clueless. OOPS! This is not what the literary  world and agents in particular are looking for. They want the emotional hook that drives the hero understood and upfront. Something that will resonate with the reader and make them emotionally engage with the story.

So…..what am I going to do about it? Okay firstly I have signed up for some online training/tutorials on character development with this bunch of miscreants at WritersHQ. Well worth a look. No bullshit no arty farty stuff, just good advice dispensed with a sense of humour and the odd swearword. I am currently doing a course on character development and it has immediately identified where I need to strengthen Perrin’s character and create more of a relationship between him and the reader.

Secondly I have taken the plunge and signed up/paid for some one on one mentoring via the Cornerstones Literary Agency who specialise in helping authors develop their MS and identify potential agents and publishers. This will give me face time with an established author/editor/agent who will work with me to make the MS more appealing/saleable. It’s going to cost me significant money, but WTF if I don’t believe in myself and the book, why should anybody else. At the very least it will help ensure I don’t make the same mistake with the next novel. As always I will let you all know what happens, good bad and indifferent.

See you out there.

Posted in characters, first novel, mentoring, Novel, Plot development, reviews, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Watt on earth is going on

Oh, hello. Yes I know, where have I been what have I been doing? Well mostly I have been waiting, and I think you can guess that currently there has been a deafening silence from the agent community about the merits or otherwise on my first novel. As others have commented, being a writer is an exercise in rejection. Doesn’t make it any easier to accept though. The real issue from my point of view is lack of feedback. You punt something out that you believe is good and then nothing…. You find a few more potentially suitable candidates, punt it out and then, nothing…..  I’m sure I speak for most of author kind when I say all we really want is honest feedback. However if you are looking for agents to provide that, then you’ve come to the wrong place. So, in the absence of any other opinions on the matter what else has been going on?

  1. I continue to tinker withy the novel, now in it’s forth draft.
  2. I have decided to look for feedback elsewhere so have taken the decision to publish it in weekly instalments on Wattpad, supposedly the leading on-line platform where writers share their stories and interact with readers. If you want to strap in for a rollicking ride in weekly instalments, then head over here and dive in.
  3. I continue to write short stories and have had another opportunity to read them on local radio.
  4. I have started the second instalment of the Steam trilogy. It’s called Manifest Destiny and has a different tone to the first novel and expands the basis of the story dealing with multiple characters and different timelines.
  5. Out of the short story writing two new ideas have emerged. The first is a hard boiled revenge novel with a female protagonist. It’s very different in feel and style from The Differences and is contemporary in setting. My creative writing tutor has also suggested it is very cinematic in tone so I am also looking at writing it as a screenplay rather than as a novel. The second is a take on a near future setting where rather than the usual totalitarian dystopia, humanity has collapsed and effectively given up, regressing back to a pre-industrial age, more feudal in nature with a “hero” who has the ability to influence others dreams.

So not idle, pushing forward, keeping writing. This seems to be the essence of being a writer. As Tim Allen said in the only decent film he was ever in “Galaxy Quest”  “Never give up, never surrender” Well I don’t intend to do either.

See you out there.

 

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Rise of the Robots

Whilst awaiting more rejections form the agent world, I need to find other things to occupy my fecund imagination. So, firstly I have decided to set myself the challenge of writing a short story every week. This is above and beyond any commitments to my creative writing group. You can find an explanation for the decision here along with the first example written last week.

Secondly, recently I have been watching quite a lot of the Channel 4 season “Rise of the Robots” and that got me thinking. The idea that robots and/or AI will replace a great number of the jobs currently undertaken by humans is fairly well documented. Usually they add a rather smug caveat that the jobs least at risk are the creative ones. But is that true? How protected are we authors from the inexorable march of robot kind? Well your intrepid writer has been finding out. What follows is a short story written by a program based on some key words decided by myself. I was not trying to be deliberately tricky. The keywords I used were genuine attempts to be helpful to the program. The result was as follows………

The Cursed Newspaper

A Short Story by Newton Fisher

William Blackman looked at the cursed newspaper in his hands and felt angry.

He walked over to the window and reflected on his crowded surroundings. He had always loved noisy Amsterdam with its cooing, curried Coffee Shops. It was a place that encouraged his tendency to feel angry.

Then he saw something in the distance, or rather someone. It was the figure of Sally Barker. Sally was a forgetful coward with fat arms and greasy fingernails.

William gulped. He glanced at his own reflection. He was a cowardly, greedy, beer drinker with dirty arms and fragile fingernails. His friends saw him as a lovely, large lawyer. Once, he had even saved a blue deaf person that was stuck in a drain.

But not even a cowardly person who had once saved a blue deaf person that was stuck in a drain, was prepared for what Sally had in store today.

The drizzle rained like shouting , making William anxious.

As William stepped outside and Sally came closer, he could see the enthusiastic smile on her face.

“I am here because I want revenge,” Sally bellowed, in a tactless tone. She slammed her fist against William’s chest, with the force of 3105 . “I frigging hate you, William Blackman.”

William looked back, even more anxious and still fingering the cursed newspaper. “Sally, I just don’t need you in my life any more,” he replied.

They looked at each other with lonely feelings, like two breakable, muddy chatting at a very proud holiday, which had reggae music playing in the background and two smart uncles sitting to the beat.

Suddenly, Sally lunged forward and tried to punch William in the face. Quickly, William grabbed the cursed newspaper and brought it down on Sally’s skull.

Sally’s fat arms trembled and her greasy fingernails wobbled. She looked fuzzy, her body raw like a mute, mutated map.

Then she let out an agonising groan and collapsed onto the ground. Moments later Sally Barker was dead.

William Blackman went back inside and made himself a nice drink of beer.

THE END 

Well, wasn’t that exciting! I think even we unpublished authors can take comfort that our position as tortured artists remains intact for a little while. If you want to have a go at writing your own AI story then head on over here and have some fun.

See you out there.

Posted in agents and publishers, Artificial Intelligence, first novel, Science Fiction, short stories, Writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Sometimes I sits and waits….sometimes I just sits.

Yeah I know. Nothing for virtually a month. What the hell have you been doing man. Honestly it’s not my fault. I have been waiting for agent feedback. After the last blog I sent out ten submissions to various agents selected via Agent Hunter . As expected when I cross referenced the key genres I was working in the list of suitable agents fell dramatically. Then when I added those that were actively looking to increase their listings it got even shorter. Now if I had been writing a procedural or psychological thriller the list would have remained suitably vast, cos that’s what sells. Agents and publishers are as susceptible to what is en vogue as the rest of us lemmings.

So I waited, and waited and then for a bit of variety waited some more. As I sit here today I have had three responses, all thanks but no thanks. Two of them were the standard rejection letter, No feedback, never darken my door again type. One was a more thoughtful and considered response. Liked the pitch, liked the characters, but just didn’t feel passionate enough to stick his/her neck out with the publishers, but please send anything else you write for consideration. OK I can live with that, Close but no cigar, but the door still ajar. What next? Well I still have another ten on my list so over the next few days I shall submit again and then go and hide in a darkened room and wait.

But I don’t want you to get the impression I have been completely idle. Just mostly. I have added two Christmas stories to the Creative writing page. These are to be read out on local radio mid-December by myself. The opportunity arose via my creative writing group who get asked to write and broadcast each year. The stories are meant to be light, cheerful with no sweary or sad stuff, so bit of a challenge for me! Also I have made a start on two more books! What I hear you cry….is the boy mad. Well not really. The first is book two in the Steam trilogy. I now have a clear plan for the first section and have written a few thousand words to test out the ideas. The second is a standalone project based on a idea that just came to me out of the blue. Totally unrelated to Steam in style and genre. I will say no more about it for now, until a few more words have been written and I see if it works.

See you soon.

 

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