Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Fahrenheit 451

Last week I read this article by writer Ewan Morrison about the death of books. He predicted that printed books would be dead and buried in twenty five years time due to the increase in ebook. Quality will suffer because of the ease with which ebooks can be produced. Writers are missing out the middle man and DIYing their own ebooks. Unfortunately the middle man also happens to be the quality control man. It is a depressing read a month after I signed my first contract to have a novel published. I need to hope that sense will prevail and that the world will not be turned into a swirling slush pile of mediocre fiction.

It is perhaps a spooky coincidence, or it is synchronicity, that around the same time as I read the article I found the next book on my to-read pile was Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. This dystopian novel was first published in 1951. The novel is set in a future world where firemen are used to burn books and anyone possessing a book is hunted down. The temperature book paper burns is 451 Fahrenheit.

This is a pretty horrific world but what is more terrible are the reasons for the book burning. The inhabitants of this world wanted escapism that was easy, titillating and real for them. They didn’t want to feel inferior to anyone, the more minorities there were the harder this was to achieve. So everything was reduced to what Bradbury calls ‘Vanilla Tapioca’. In this world leisure is plentiful. Living rooms have wall to wall 3D TV. These walls are called the ‘Parlour’ and the people who live within the ‘Parlour’ are like the relatives; so real they are part of the family. What Bradbury described first in 1951 is not so far away today.

Today’s newspapers contain hardly any news, mostly celebrity gossip. TVs the size of football pitches crowd out many living rooms and soap operas are so common place and familiar that even thought I never watch them I could probably name some of their main characters.

Ray Bradbury’s world may be gruesome, but it is believable. The books in that world make people feel inferior and have no place in a Vanilla Tapioca World, therefore they must go. I could probably live with the demise of new printed books because we have a wonderful back catalogue of classics that would take me several lifetimes to read. What terrifies me is living in a world where ‘The Parlour’ is the norm. That is the real horror of the Fahrenheit 451 because it is just around the corner.

Read the book and judge for yourself. 

I bought my copy from the wonderful Plan B Book in Glasgow. One of the few bookseller left standing, but that's another story.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

When the fizz dies the work begins

My time in my writing cave is almost over. I have one more day and then on Friday I am travelling up north, with illustrator Mandy Sinclair. We will travel through Rannoch Moor, Glen Coe to Eilean Donan Castle in search of rowan trees and castles. In search of inspiration for one of the projects we are collaborating on.
My last post bubbled with the news of my publishing contract. There is a lot of work to do before the book hits the shelf. My publisher is small but even the large publishing houses have limited budgets for promotion. More and more authors are expected to publicize their own books.
The editing process does not start until September, after the Edinburgh Book Festival. That means a few weeks where I can sit diddling my thumbs. Except I don’t do sitting doing nothing.

I began reading Guerrilla Marketing for Writers last week. I have owned this book since 2002 (ever the optimist). It is a little out of date and it is aimed at the American market. I weary with the gung ho hype, but it does dole out some pretty good dollops of advice. The layout is easy to absorb and there are text boxes containing lists of weapons to use which I can go back over once I have tired of throwing the book into the corner after each chapter.
I never need an excuse to begin a new notebook. My publication notebook is an A5 soft cover so I can take it everywhere with me, to jot down ideas on the move (does that sound American?).
The most significant thing I have done this week is to contact the Cultural Enterprise Office. They give free advice to businesses and individuals in the creative arts. I am hoping to set up sessions with them soon.
My social networking sites are seeing more of me than usual and I have joined a couple of new ones. During my business years I discovered the benefits of networking. It is something I have always believed in and continue to treat with professionalism. I now realise how important it is going to be for me in the future so I am glad that the friends I have made across the globe continue to support me even though we no longer work together.
The writing, of course has to continue. After a stall of a few months I picked up my latest novel, working title The Mongrel. What a joy it was this morning to print off 170 pages and begin to re read the words I first started to write in January. I can’t wait to finish it now.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

At Last

Last week corks popped, fizz fizzed. I signed a publishing contract with Fledgling Press. My debut novel The Incomers, will be published in April/May 2012. I have been submitting the manuscript for the past fifteen months and even though I never lost the belief that I would find a publisher I always sighed when a rejection came through the post or popped into my inbox.

All the writing articles I read said that perseverance is the key and I had to believe them. Every time I heard Christopher Brookmyre, Iain Banks, and all the other big names say they had written three, four, five books before they got a break my resolve strengthened.

I finished The Incomers in April 2010. The job of writing a novel is an arduous task in itself, the feeling of achievement on completion is immense.  The job had only just begun. There was still months of submissions ahead and in the mean time the writing must continue.

At first I tried writing another novel, but I was creatively drained. I wrote a couple of short stories and resurrected a few more. I set about trying to get all my short stories published. This meant more submissions, more rejections but it also meant more successes. While I waited for the big one, I used these small kernels of success to keep me motivated.

I attended a short summer course where I began to write a stage play. This is a craft I had no experience of, so the learning was exciting and boosted me on the mega rejections days.

I took a poetry class which I believed would help hone my editing and language skills. It was an enjoyable experience but taught me I lacked the meditative skills great poets require. I do not know how to sit and do nothing for long stretches of time (unless I am sitting by the Atlantic).

I began to write a children’s series and developed a proposal which only highlighted the amount of bite I still had to chew.

And eventually I began that other novel and then stuck fifty thousand words in.
Now I have a publishing contract it would be easy to sit back and bask, maybe daydream a poet’s day away.  But that is not me. I have had my week of glory and fizz.

On Monday I entered my self appointed writing cave. The place I go to write. I do not allow myself to procrastinate; I restrict access to Facebook and email. My To Do list is crumpled and tossed in the bin. My house is left to rot, the washing basket to over flow and the garden to fill with weeds. My car lies dormant, no trips to Glasgow or Fife. I am in the cave for the duration. This I can endure because I know it is only for two weeks.

This week I will progress my children’s series, next week I will polish the play to send to the Playwrights Studio for assessment and then reread the fifty thousand word work in progress. (Oops is that a To Do list?)

My excitement of publication is still with me and each day I do a couple of hours towards making The Incomers a success. The baby was born, has been accepted and now I have to prepare her for the world.
It may sound like hell but my writing time is limited and I always have extra time in the day to read, research , play guitar and nap. I have read interviews with writers who say they do this every day, but I can’t see how that is possible. I know by the end of this fortnight I will have cave fever, but I will have a bulk of work behind me and a good platform on which to return to my normal piddling about on a diet of a couple of hours writing a day and my beloved To Do list.

My writing cave? No, but it is a lovely memory of Ronda to keep me on track