Shut the hell up, you inconsiderate *******s!!!
I’m struggling with this blog entry. I’m sitting on the train as it rolls into Kings Cross on my way to work and I’ve already restarted it several times. I feel like shouting out the above to the loud mobile phone users next to me, but that might not go down too well and I’ve still got 20 minutes with them. Yes, we all know you’re on a train. Indeed, there are tunnels that everyone knows will cut you off any second. No, you don’t need to shout so loud. Yes, you may be about to have a face-related phone accident if you keep this up…
Return to sender
‘Oh,’ she says as she holds up a beige packet. ‘Looks like one of your…things has come back.’
I look up and see what is clearly a full packet – full of the returned fifty pages of my manuscript, ‘things’ being my submissions. The only manuscript I’d sent via post, so I instantly knew who it was from. Full probably doesn’t mean good. Full, I immediately think, means rejection.
I open the packet and slide out the paper. On top of my slightly crumpled manuscript is a letter. A part of me clings on to hope, saying, ‘This could be it, Andy! Next rung of success!’ I start to process it…’enjoyed reading it…not suitable for use…wish you good luck’. My heart sinks as every bit of hope vanishes out of my body. It’s a rejection. Weeks of wishing and hoping and maybes and dreams… and finally I get the slap in the face. I expected it. I knew the odds. I know success will be better from failure. But boy, at that very second of realisation, does it hurt.
I got over it, as every writer has to. In some ways, it’s a badge of honour, a bruise in a battle you’re determined to win. I still have all the other agents I’m waiting to hear from. Most say expect 6-8 weeks, so given my submission dates, any day now I may get another response. More chances of possible success. And now I’m prepared for failure, having experienced its bitter taste. (Of course, if there are any agents who have read my submission and are just checking me out via this blog, then ignore all this – I’m just joking! Rejected? Nah, not me guv, honest. In fact you’d better get in there quick and snap me up before someone else does.)
Read all about it
Whilst I’m in limbo with 26 Miles to the Moon and thinking up ideas for my second novel, I’ve been doing a lot of reading. As a writer, you have to read, in the same way footballers have to watch other football matches – not only to entertain, but to also see how others do it. What I find amazing with reading is how different people’s opinions can be on the same book. One man’s life-changing novel can be another’s boring, unfinished, one-star review. Two books I struggled with are Life of Pi and The Moment. Life of Pi undoubtedly has some wonderful prose, but as a story it sucked the life out of me to the extent I did the rare thing of actually abandoning it. Give me a story! The Moment also had great reviews, and I got the style the poet author was going for, but following nearly every line with pages of back story frustrated me. Give me the present! If I wasn’t on holiday with bags of free time, it may have also been cast aside. Some might say who am I to criticise successful authors of successful books (and they’d be right) but no-one can convince me they couldn’t have been made into better books that would leave more people satisfied.
What they did make me realise, though, was that good or bad, these weren’t the type of books I wanted to write. I’ve realised that I want to write something that I want to read, something that if I picked up and read the back cover I’d think ‘Hey, this sounds cool, different and an easy read’, finish it and then say, ‘Hey, that was a page-turner, fun and memorable.’ So I will make sure the story is key to my novels, that they are moved forward with pace. Of course I won’t dispense with description – it’s necessary to draw your reader into the world you’ve created – but I won’t make it the key part of the book.
Fifty Shades of Hitler’s Twilight Amityville Killers
Although I started off writing horror short stories, my switch to a much more lighter style has been far more rewarding for me. There are so many dark books out there dealing with killers, war, terminal diseases, dysfunctional families. Don’t get me wrong – these can produce some great novels, many of which I’ve enjoyed. We all like to explore our dark side, read about terrible things and how they are (usually) overcome. But at the same time, I’d argue that there must be a balance. We need books out there to lighten the mood, to provide the adventure, the drama, the suspense without the need to scare, frighten or sadden. For every Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty, we need a Super Mario Kart, otherwise I dread to think how we’d all end up.
I’m not getting all hippy on you – and judging from my rising anger over simple mobile phone use I could quite happily commit a pixelated killing spree or two – but it’s just that I want people to read my books for the adventure, the story. I’ll have plenty of conflict, drama, passion, evil characters, sex and even murder, but I can make the reader have fun, too.
So there, I’ve said it. If you want rampaging vampires, World War II heroes, grisly murders or fifty shades of soft porn then go ahead and buy the many great examples out there. Then when you want a change, an exciting, funny adventure you just can’t put down then maybe I’ll have just the novel for you.