Category Archives: Writing

About to publish and be damned

[Originally published, as part of a longer post, 16 March 2013]

I’ve finished revising King’s Ransom, and I am playing around with other ideas. I’ve found a site called Booktango which offers free formatting for all kinds of eBook, and I am going to experiment with that for a while to see how easy it is to get the book online.

I’ve found that I want to keep tweaking the text, and I wonder if this will continue if and when I ever get the thing published. I say “if and when” but I am fairly sure it will be “when”. I’ve been a bit worried that I might be making myself look foolish among those who know and love me (“Why on Earth did Martyn think he was a novelist? Who is going to tell him?”) But I’ve decided that if that is the general reaction, it will be fairly easy to unpublish the book.

Meantime, I have decided that I need to start a new blog specifically for King’s Ransom. Apparently it will be helpful for promotion. More of that anon.

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A ransom that cannot be paid?

[Edited version of post originally published 7 February 2013]

I’m ploughing through the comments on King’s Ransom, and exchanging ideas with Peter, and with Andy, on how things are developing. I’ve hit a bit of a brick wall with one particular issue, which concerns the “ransom” as originally written:  Peter says my idea is something that is simply impossible.

I’ve been trying to argue that it is a novel, so in that sense it’s all impossible, but as Peter points out, even the impossible has to be believable.

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Another critical reader

[Originally published, as part of a longer post, 31 January 2013]

I spent a couple of days incorporating Andy’s corrections to King’s Ransom, which in turn involved rewriting some sections of the book. I then sent it off to brother-in-law Peter, and got an email back saying he was “engaging with it already”. This was great news, and I waited patiently for his comments, which I knew would be different in type from Andy’s but equally valuable for exactly that reason.

I wasn’t wrong. Peter’s corrections arrived today, along with a whole list of suggestions and propositions. In general he likes the novel, but several of his comments will, like Andy’s, involve rewrites – and these are likely to take more than a couple of days. Still, I think it will be worthwhile in the end.

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I am definitely going to publish. I think

[Originally published 17 January 2013]

I had a long chat on the phone this morning with my friend Andy, who has read my revised draft of King’s Ransom. Andy and I met through our shared devotion to Leicester City, and we’ve known one another for about 16 years. His comments were really helpful – both constructive and instructive, as I might have expected. Aside from some literal errors, he pointed to a number of plot inconsistencies that occurred to him as he was reading the draft and – which I found interesting – some language uses that he said were out of character. He also offered a few insights into culture and environments in Asia that will also be helpful.

But he was very encouraging and said I should definitely go ahead – if only for my own satisfaction. Before I do that, however, I am going to get someone else to read it, once I’ve incorporated Andy’s ideas. My brother-in-law Peter probably doesn’t like this kind of book, but he will be wonderfully pedantic about spotting anything that’s not quite right. Just the man for me.

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Cover story

[Edited version of post originally published 14 January 2013]

Every morning, I go for a 5km walk with Barney my big blond Labrador. It takes about 45 minutes, and is a great time for mulling things over: work, jobs, the garden, political news – anything that’s on my mind. Recently I’ve been reading the guide to producing covers for Kindle books and on my walk this morning I started thinking about the cover for King’s Ransom, if I ever get round to publishing it.

Part of me thinks that it just needs the words on a plain background, but that doesn’t appear to be the conventional wisdom. Almost every Kindle book I’ve looked at has a pictorial cover related to the subject matter – sometimes rather tenuously. Design isn’t my strong point: like many writers I don’t have a strong visual imagination, although I do know quite a bit about typography – hence the thought that I would have a type only cover.

I’m not sure where this came from, but halfway through my walk this morning I had an idea which is a compromise between a picture and type: it would involve using the binary notation of the words “King’s Ransom” and trying and make something illustrative of that. One of the things I love about the internet is that you can find an answer to just about anything, and I found a site that converts to all sorts of coding – including binary.

I used the site to convert “King’s Ransom” to binary notation (1001011 1101001 1101110 1100111 100111 1110011 1110010 1100001 1101110 1110011 1101111 1101101, since you ask) and I think I might be able to use it in a way that would be more attractive than just the words.

Once again, watch this space.

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A critical (and honest) reader

[Originally published 4 January 2013]

I sent the draft of King’s Ransom to a friend of mine, Andy, who is off on a visit to the Middle East at the end of the week: he’s going to read it on the plane. I hope it will not send him to sleep.

I’m relieved that he’s said he will be completely honest and critical (to a fault, probably), although I am still a little nervous, as he is the first person to see this revised version. I’ve never been bothered when someone criticises my writing – as long as it is constructive – because it can only help me improve.

Of course, someone criticising my novel might make me react differently. We shall see.

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Reflections at the end of the year

[Originally published, as part of a longer post, 31 December 2012]

It’s been an interesting year. I started this blog, I found a long-lost novel, and I got just that bit older – though whether any wiser is a matter of considerable debate.

I have finished revising King’s Ransom, and I’m going to spend the next few days reading it again. I’ve changed the story in all sorts of ways, but the basic plot line is the same as it was when I originally wrote it. I really don’t know whether it is any good, but I’m going to ask a friend of mine if he can have a read-through. He’s travelled much more than I have, and will be able to pick up any flaws in my imagined geography. He’s also a good enough friend to tell me honestly if it is a load of rubbish.

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