Day One

So, following the writery thoughts inspired by yesterday’s blog post, and a chat with Billy on Monday, I sat down yesterday with my handsome moleskine and proceeded to scribble out a bunch of useful stuff on what might be the next long-form writing project. I have a bunch of notes about it already scattered here and there – I wrote what will probably be the opening line when I was last in Edinburgh in late 2008 – but this brought them together and developed them in a very pleasing way.

The idea is one that has been kicking around in my head for a decade, and it will not leave me alone. I think it’s a good, sound idea, but all it’s been this whole time is an idea – not a story. It’s one I’ve played with in several media, the only version that ever made it to other people was a role-playing game using the idea in 2005 (Lucy, Gregor, Paul and Cat took part). This version will be massively different from that one, not least because of the different demands of the form.

As with every single long-form creative project I’ve done, I’m trying a different process here. I’m working hard on development of the idea before actually setting pen to paper to write anything. Character notes, scene ideas, lines of dialogue, potential connections. Not exactly outlining, more accumulating a dense cloud of potential around the core idea and the narrative starting point. It seems like it’s working for this project, so far, the notebook pages seem to carry useful content and there’s a definite increase in value looking at what I have now compared to where I was a month ago. It still feels open and free to potential, which seems important. It might be a happy medium situation, loose enough to breathe and explore, planned enough to go somewhere reliable.

I guess that deep down I’m terrified of creating another Ron the Body. I love RtB, I think it’s a good novel and that the right publisher could make money from it. But it took years of my life to get where it is, and I can see it with enough impartiality to know that the publishers who have turned it down have done so for good reason. I still hope to find that right publisher who’ll be able to get behind it, but I don’t begrudge anyone for not taking it on. (Side note – at the Hicksville launch, I bailed up VUP publisher Fergus Barrowman and introduced myself with “You rejected my novel”. He winced, but I told him I’d really appreciated his thoughtful, insightful and ultimately encouraging letter, which I guess did enough to convince him I wasn’t about to stab him. We talked for a few minutes about RtB, and it was a very worthwhile chat.)

I don’t want another RtB. I want to make something that I am creatively passionate about which is also clearly publishable. And I want it finished and submitted swiftly! This note-taking and development process feels like exactly the right way to head in this direction. My writing efforts have been tilted in other directions the last few months, but I’m itching to get back into my own fiction, and this is likely to be the project that gets the green light. We’ll see how it goes I guess.

8 thoughts on “Day One”

  1. Serious question: are there any native NZ fiction publishers who are genuinely interested in selling books? Or are native NZ publishers all of “literary grants” persuasion?

  2. The moleskine was a gift from Malcolm, I should note.

    Thanks china and Dan!
    Pearce – surely it’s a matter of balancing your expected revenue streams? Ideally you’ll sell lots of books and get lots of grants. But the NZ depts of big houses fit the bill, if you wangle the meaning of ‘native’ enough to get there.

  3. Definitely as I progress through projects the collation of material in advance changes – experience has changed the questions I want answered in advance, and the things I test out to see how viable the idea is (and indeed, knowing what it takes to bring a large project to term makes one ask is this one worth it) – but ultimately it is about reaching that critical mass and just saying fuck it and starting… It is interesting as well the ideas that linger for years, slowly accreting mass; they possess an innate centre of gravity, biding their time to go nova.

  4. Morgue: what I meant was that NZ publishers don’t seem to publish the kinds of books that most NZ book readers seem interested in reading, so if Ron the Body is a book that a publisher could make money from, it’s not too surprising that NZ publishers don’t want it.

  5. My only advice: Have at least one character in the novel named Aaron. It always works for me….

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