A Bouncing Baby Book

Breaking with my tradition of not blogging at all, I decided to mark this day with a blog post.

So. After three years of planning and thinking and a frantic four-month workathon, my new book is finally done. “Done” as in the first draft, which needs editing, polishing, poking and all that stuff. But still, I am sitting atop a pile of 117000 words, more or less in the right order, and they feel very comfy indeed.

I shall not reveal so much about this book, as the title and the idea are pretty unique. Suffice to say it’s an urban fantasy adventure kind of thing with some horror and it’s got a lot to do with dreams.

Some inspiration.
Some inspiration.

The last two weeks I have worked in a blaze and did fully one quarter of the book. That’s 27000 words in two weeks, which for me is a hell of a lot of words. I’ve been getting up early to write before work, going home every evening to write after work, and my son probably thinks I am now part of the kitchen table as whenever he comes home from school, there I am, slouched over, squinting on the screen.

When I put the last word on the page at 7.35 this morning, I stared at the screen, with no idea how to react. And then I started to cry. I’m not sure if it was from relief, or happiness, or exhaustion, but cry I did. Nothing has felt this close to having a baby than actually watching my son’s mother having an actual baby.

Now I’m ploughing right into the next book (not a sequel to this one) which, for once, I will plan meticulously before writing. I suspect this might be the best way for me to work as with a plan I’m free to just write and not look back. And the new-born book will be put in a drawer and allowed to ferment and steam for six to eight weeks like a Christmas pudding. Because that’s what you gotta do.

And finally, here’s some music I listened to a hell of a lot while writing this — a seven-hour long ambient piece called “Somnium”. So put it on, float away and watch this space. (Or, better yet, this twitter space where I tend to post more than once every three months.)

/ paddy

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And it’s away!

Now my life feels a bit empty. Pointless. I feel like the children have left, the dog was killed by a falling anvil, and the roses were munched up by a stray horse.

The novel, you see, is sent off. Black Heart’s Blood, eight years in the making, is finally done, read, re-done, checked, read again, edited, cut, changed, polished, printed out, peered over and kissed lightly on the lips by a volleyball team of angels.

Last night I sent it off to my five chosen agents, with a synopsis, query letter, and first three chapters. Those who haven’t been through this process might be amazed by how much time it takes. A query letter (Hello, this is me, and here’s my book) takes weeks or months of fretting. Just google “agent query letter” and see what a flood of frantic, hair-pulling hits you’ll get.

I’ve also learned a hell of a lot about how to make a novel good. Thanks in large part to Stephen King’s brilliant book On Writing and agent Kristin’s excellent blog, Pub Rants, where every tip given is a nugget of pure gold.

So here’s what I learned:

1. Find the story catalyst, the event that makes the story begin. Harry gets his letter, Charlie buys the chocolate bar, Bastian finds the bookshop and the book that never ends. Make sure you know what it is, and arrange the book so it happens in the first thirty pages. The beginning of your book is just a vessel to deliver the plot catalyst.

2. Cut like you’re an insane gardener. In my final draft I went from 120,000 words to 97,000. Terrible carnage. Seriously, your book will shine if you remove every excess phrase and un-needed character. Take those darlings, gag them, and  shove the buggers into a wood-chipper.

3. Listen to feedback. I received very useful feedback from test readers and redesigned a character because of it, making her much better. Readers are your future audience, so listen!

4. Copy somebody. I read The Hunger Games and noted everything she did structure, grammar and pace-wise. To learn the mechanics of writing a best-seller, study a best seller, and note your own reactions and emotions as you first read it.

5. Use adverbs VERY sparsely. Incredibly sparsely. And semicolons too. A semicolon in fiction means, “look at me, I’m smart, me”. Off with their heads. Or their colons.

Now keep in mind these tips aren’t worth much unless an agent calls me. I have high hopes that they will. It’s a very good book, and I’ve read the fucking thing 96 times so I should know.

And if an agent does call, you’ll all hear about it. Oh yes you will.

God speed Jeffri Erduul!

/ paddy

Pathetic Postage Plea

I am currently sending off The Novel to those pointy-headed demons known as “agents” so that they can ridicule me with their form-letter replies. Nothing new there. Except now I have exhausted all relevant agents and publishers in the UK who accept email submissions (about eight, all told) and have to move to the next step. This entails printing out a lump of the The Novel and actually posting it. In the mail. With a stamp and everything.

In theory, this is fine. In practise, it’s akin to an itchy case of pubic lice. You see, since the fine ladies and gentlemen of the publishing world will not reply by email even to say “piss off” to aspiring writers, I have to send them a stamped self-addressed envelope for the conveyance their hateful little notes. This requires that I either get hold of some British stamps to put on said letters, or else send international reply coupons.

And there the shit deepens. The Swedish post office stopped selling international reply coupons about ten years ago. “There’s too little demand,” they told me. Well, maybe, but aren’t you the fucking POST OFFICE? And if you don’t sell them in Sweden, who does? Nobody, turns out to be the answer.

So onto option two – get hold of some UK stamps. Which seemed easy to do via the Royal Mail’s site. I picked out my stamps, picked my country, paid with my Visa card, and got a confirmation mail. And then the next day I got a mail from a dude at the Royal Mail to tell me that unfortunately, they couldn’t sell me the stamps I had already paid for since I lived “abroad”.

But why, I asked, did your site allow me to buy stamps at all, since it asked me for my country, and I told it, before it TOOK MY MONEY? Our site is shit, the dude explained. So sorry, but no stamps today. Money shall be returned. And here, contact this office in the Royal Mail and they can help you.

I mailed that office. They never replied. Plus my money was not returned. I mean, Jesus on a hover-board, how hard can it be to buy some fucking UK stamps from the fucking UK POST OFFICE?

Deep breath. Right, the only other option (short of taking a Ryanair flight to London) is to find a nice English person and ask them to go down the road, buy a booklet of first-class international UK stamps, and post them to me. So that’s what I have been reduced to.

Please, blog readers in the UK, buy me some stamps and I’ll send you a number of shiny new shillings to cover their purchase and transport. Or else the story of two Irish expats in Stockholm and their sexual misadventures will never see the light of day at all. And that would be a bloody shame.

/ paddy