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.


Posted in first novel, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.


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.


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

(chorus) “I’m gonna be rejected!”

First off, apologies to any Alice Cooper fans out there for the lift. Secondly, apologies for the absence. This was due to circumstances beyond my control. OK, now back to the show.

This week it’s all about rejection. The sort all writers have to prepare themselves for and the particular hell of finding an agent. That’s the big hurdle. If you get over that then, if traditional publishing/books is your thing, then you are almost there. That will not be the case for the vast majority, who will end up littering the in-trays before the cursory rejection e-mail. Why will an agent reject your blood/sweat soaked masterpiece? Well in no particular order they might do it for the following reasons.

  1. It’s a poor idea
  2. It’s a poor idea badly written
  3. It’s a poor idea well written
  4. It’s a good idea badly written
  5. You picked the wrong agent for the genre you are writing in
  6. Your genre/story just isn’t that popular at the moment
  7. You didn’t format/synopsis/cover letter as requested
  8. They were swamped and decided to dump a whole lot sight unseen
  9. The agent is a jerk and hates you
  10. The universe hates you
  11. You wrote an OK story quite well…..meh

Of those possibly the last is the worst. You were OK, he/she has read worst, probably got it published too. So near but so far. Better luck next time. As for the rest, the point to understand from them is that they are they are all your fault to a greater or lesser extent. Even No.8. Did you check to see if they were even taking submissions at the moment?

So in the last week or so I have finished the second draft. It still needs work, but that can continue, no need to wait any longer. The basic plot, story telling, characterisation, world-building is done. If they don’t like it, no amount of tweaking is gonna save it. To that effect I have written a synopsis, a covering letter and formatted the first three chapters in the style most of them seem to want. Next step is to sign up to Agent Hunter, create a profile search and identify 8-10 agents who might be interested and who are open for submissions at the moment. Press the send button and wait for those rejections to just start rolling in. But I am lying to you dear reader because I have already sent it out to one agent. The reason, well it’s a bit weird actually. Whilst researching the book and it’s London locations, I was in the Citte of York, which has some of the old furniture of Beneke’s the setting for the first two chapters. Well while taking some photos, a gent strolled by and asked what I was doing. When I told him about the book, he told me that just behind the pub were his agents. He wished me luck and went off to meet them. Well, at that moment I knew I just had to send the finished MSS to this lot. The coincidence (I imagined) foretold of great things. Such were my delusions at the time.

See you next week.

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

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Not so much of a blog as a personal update. This morning my mother died. It was long expected, and today her suffering came to an end. Updates maybe a little less frequent and work on the book has stopped for the time being.

See you out there.

Posted in Feedback | Leave a comment

“I’m sorry, I have a plane to catch.”

Clever, very clever. I bet you say that to all your master classes. Mind you so would I. Any excuse to be able to make a sharp exit and not have your path blocked by us zombie like authors, all desperate to tell you about our masterpiece.

I was here. Attending a Guardian master class. “How To Get A literary Agent” run by the very professional Juliet Mushens. She works here and by all accounts is one of the best and most successful agents in the UK. So of course, we all want her to be ours. She’s perfect for us. Us? Oh yes, there is us. Almost one hundred of us, all shapes sizes and variable dress sense.  We hang off her every word. The words shooting, fish, and barrel come to mind. She is kind. She tells us about what happens if you get an agent. She tells you how to present your manuscript in the best possible light. She has two actual authors with her Amy Alward and Laura Purcell. They are very nice, and they have been published. So we also hang off their every word hoping to learn the holy grail of being picked up. This is something we are desperate to be part of. But of course it’s what she doesn’t tell you that really matters.

Publishers use agents to filter out the crap. Of the people attending today approx. 0.1% of us have a chance to be taken on by an agent. The rest of us will be rejected, frequently, brutally. Juliet gets over 5 thousand manuscripts a year. We will need to develop the hide of a rhino to carry on. “It’s not you, don’t take it personally.” She’s right it’s not you, agents don’t care about you. I’m serious and so is she. It’s the book, the whole book and nothing but the book. Lesson one and the most important thing any of us can learn from today is “write a good book”. Keep writing it until it’s the best you can make it. Then let it go. A fresh pair of eyes will see things you cant, or wont.  So remember, you haven’t finished writing it yet. Just the first stage is completed.

After that, research your agents. Find between six and ten who will consider the genre you are writing in. Writing across genres? Decide on the major category. If it’s a romance with time travel, send it to an agent who is interested in romance. If it’s a thriller, but also a biting satire on our inner cities, it’s still a thriller.

Next get your package right. Yes you heard me, time to adjust you package. Write a good covering letter, be professional. Write an enticing blurb, the back jacket elevator pitch for the novel. To do that follow the Mushens method of character, setting, conflict, resolution. Somebody, somewhere has something happen to them which results in something else happening and so…..You can find mine here. Next, you have to have a synopsis. One to two pages where you outline the characters, the plot and, crucially, tell them who dunnit. At this point I felt rather sad for Juliet. Doesn’t she ever long to read a book where she doesn’t know what happens?

Other things to remember.

Agents are subjective. It’s their opinion and they only back what they like.

They make money out of your book. 15% domestically, 20% overseas. Before you cry out in horror, what they do for that is all the business side of getting you a deal and managing your career. Don’t whinge, it’s a bargain.

Treat “open door” months by publishers with caution. Some may very well offer sub-standard contracts, and how do you know what is fair and reasonable? Agents do.

What else? Oh, some off us got to read out our blurb and get some live feedback from Juliet. I got an opportunity and some good comments, but then we all did. Finally, she said the one thing we were all secretly hoping for.

“Thank you all for coming, sorry I cant stay.  Here is a pile of business cards, do take one. I look forward to reading any submissions you make.” We descend on the cards like wolves, hardly noticing that she has already left the room. We have all decided that Juliet is the one for us. It’s not true of course. She is mine, all mine, the rest of you losers can go to hell. I am the 0.1% and nothing will stand in my way.

In other news, I am still engaged in the second draft of the book and I have updated the creative writing page with some more examples from my writers workshop.

See you next week.

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