Tag Archives: writing

A start-again job

I spent a lot of time yesterday getting this blog ready to roll, a job which involved transferring and editing bits from the blog attached to my freelance copywriter website. Now it’s time to write something new.

That’s less easy than it sounds. If you read through the other posts, you’ll see that they tell the story of how I came across the original manuscript of King’s Ransom and how I revised, updated and then published it. If I were starting this blog from scratch I could have told that story in more detail, and I did think about adding intervening posts explaining various processes that I went through. But I’m not sure that would have been entirely satisfactory, because they would have lacked any of the sense of discovery and excitement that I felt at the time.

In any case, as L P Hartley wrote as the first line of The Go Between “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there”. Incidentally, isn’t that the most wonderful opening line? I think it’s up there with “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” and “Call me Ishmael”.

When I wrote the first version of King’s Ransom, the opening line – which is still the first line of the first chapter – was “The more something happens, the more you get used to it. That’s the theory. The theory is bullshit.” And the hero goes on to find out that he’s just been made redundant for the third time in his working life. I thought the opening was quite catchy, but someone who read it told me that an action-adventure story needed a bit more, well, action and adventure in the opening few words. So I wrote a Prologue before the first chapter, which starts “John Deacon handed in his security badge to the guard, smiled his thanks and waited as the electronic door was unlocked.” Catchy, eh? I can tell you are gripped already.

But back to the plot, or at least the plot of this blog. Over the coming weeks I’m going to write more about King’s Ransom (of course), about what I am doing to promote it, and – if I actually manage it – how I am getting on with my next novel. Among the fragments I found in the back-up CDs that I found last year was an outline of a romantic comedy that I originally wrote as a filmscript for a competition back in 1996/97. I didn’t enter it for the competition – someone close to me said they didn’t like my script – and I’d forgotten all about it. But I mentioned it to my wife Kate and she remembered it and said she thought it would make a lovely bittersweet and funny novel. So, I might do that at some point, and if I do I will write about it.

Meantime, I’ll be concentrating on King’s Ransom. In addition to writing about the book and how I am promoting it, I’ll also share the information I found about formatting and uploading to Kindle. A lot of Kindle books I’ve looked at seem to have formatting issues which would be relatively easy to solve with a few simple procedures. But that is for the future . Now, the sun is shining, and my overgrown garden is calling for me to come and tidy it.

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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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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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Effin’ and blindin’ as a literary style

[Originally published 16 November 2012]

I’ve been working on my novel, King’s Ransom. One of the strange things I have noticed – apart from all of the political and social changes that have taken place since I first wrote it – is the amount of swearing I incorporated in the original. I do swear, rather too much, and I suppose there are naturally elements of me in the hero. Even so, I am going through and cutting it right down to an essential minimum: ie, he swears in anger or frustration, rather than as a means of punctuation. Making him nothing like me at all.

I still don’t know whether I will publish it, but I am enjoying the editing process anyway.

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When the Internet reached three million people

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

I’ve been looking through the back-up files that I found earlier this week. One of the first drafts of my novel King’s Ransom had as its final chapter a letter from the hero. In this, he says the following: “It will appear in something called the Internet, and as I understand it that makes it available to more than three million people worldwide.” The fictional letter is dated October 1994.

In fact, three million was a bit of an under-estimate – though not by much – and with the benefit of hindsight I have been able to find it was slightly more than that: at the end of 1994, the number of people with Internet access worldwide was just over 11 million. Astonishing.

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