The End = The Beginning. (Maybe.) :-)

Some weeks ago, I began a new novel, the details of which I posted here. Then I disappeared. Novelists do that.

This is me reappearing and saying, “Tada!” because the first draft is complete.

Having shown my agent the six-page outline in August, I felt confident to get on with the writing. I went at it daily for about eleven weeks, only missing days when it was unavoidable – perhaps five or six absences across the whole stretch.

The novel had to come in at under 150K so that it won’t be too long to sell (mss above this word count incur a significantly higher printing cost). I squeaked in at 146K, leaving some wiggle room.

There’s a good deal of editing to do before there’s a presentable draft, then it’s time to wait for a verdict from my agent. A thumbs-up means the piggy goes to market next year. A thumbs-down…well, let’s not talk about that.

Anyway, I’m back so, “Hello and hope you’ve been well!”

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A new book in the pipeline?

It’ll be several months before there’s much more I can really tell you about this, however, I thought I ought to let you know you that I am writing a new novel. So, if I seem a little distant or otherwise preoccupied, it’s because I am spending almost every hour of the day living in (and writing down in story form) a total and utter fantasy.

Rest assured, however, that less tweeting, updating and blogging is leading to something far superior to and, I hope, more enduring than, any links, pics or blather I might otherwise share online.

What’s the book about?

Well, all I’ll say at this very early stage is that it’s epic fantasy and by far the most unusual thing I’ve written. It’s ecological/environmental to a degree and is an idea that has been gestating for well over twenty years.

In fact, this was the first novel I ever tried to write and never came close to completing – there’ve been a few of those, though it happens less often these days, I’m glad to say. A few months ago, I was telling my daughter about the world I’d envisioned and the story that might have unfolded. She said, “Dad, you should go back to the beginning and write that story again.”

So that’s what I’m doing.

I may check in a couple more times before Christmas but, for the foreseeable, it’s head down and no distractions.

Even if I manage to finish it this time, there is, as usual, no guarantee that this novel will even see publication. But which writer ever let that stop them doing what they were born to do?

See you soon and thanks for your patience.

Those who can’t teach

When I’m not being a house husband or soon-to-be-bestselling author, I run a small acupuncture practice. It, too, is an enterprise that has yet to make me a fortune, even though I’ve been at it for fifteen years or more. Therefore, to supplement my immense-but-not-quite-fully-realised dreams of wealth, acclaim and power, I teach novel writing.

Ha, ha.

(Ha.)

Inconceivably vast remunerative possibilities aside, I both love and hate the job.

I hate it because I don’t believe it’s possible for someone with little or no flair to learn how to do it. Acquiring techniques will never be enough for someone with no basic ability – no such thing as a melamine Ming vase, is there? So when the inevitable would-be-but-cannot-bes become apparent, I have to find ways of helping them. Within the confines of a plastic flower receptacle. Not easy. But as long as students feel they’re improving and as long as they enjoy the journey, then all is well.

There’s a lesson in this: writers should endeavour to be honestly self-appraising and yet it’s one thing we find impossible to do. We either think we’re dreadful when we’re not or we think we’re brilliant when we’re not. A bit like X Factor contestants.

Did I just say that on my own blog? Pass me that skewer. Yes, the one with the poisoned tip – I’ve got itchy eyeballs…

I also hate reading the novels as they develop in case they’re rubbish – because it’s my job to address such things. Actually, in the classes I teach with John Costello – a man whose artistic abilities are multifarious and monumental – we give honest, considered feedback and we do it in a very supportive atmosphere. In fact, we prevent rubbish novels from ever being written (agents and commissioning editors can thank me with a small donation through paypal or an offering of their firstborn).

I hate looking at a stack of manuscripts too. And don’t you dare suggest I’m the only person in the world who feels that way.

But, after term started last week with seventeen students on the register, I fell in love with teaching writing all over again. Just like I do every year. Seventeen individuals, no two the same. Seventeen people about to embark on a year of literary adventures that will push them to the limits of their ability and make them question everything they thought they knew about the craft. They’ll go beyond what they believed themselves capable of. It happens every year and it’s wonderful.

Another payoff is that in every class I’ve taught, we’ve struck gold with two or three people who have the skill; the desire to learn; the discipline to write; the bravery to edit and the great ideas it takes to complete and sell novels. I’ve no doubt some of them will go on to be published and have car accident careers just like mine!

Last Wednesday they told us a little about themselves and we got them started on their protagonists. Already I’m hearing ideas with great potential and characters with great scope. We’ll have comedy, romance, horror, thrillers, SF and much more over the next academic year and, after dreading it all summer, I suddenly can’t wait to see what they come up with.