Monday, 10 December 2012

(Self) Publish and Be Damned

I got the first paper copy of part of my new novel today. It was very exciting. The novel isn't complete - this was just a tester to make sure there weren't any major problems in the parts I was able to write before's 30% off offer ended and I had to pay more for everything. Incidentally, saying '30% off of everything on the site' is a lie if the postage is at the same larcenous rates it always is, but hey ho. Accept the things you cannot change.

So I've now been re-reading it again, in print this time. I'm not going to lie about it: I'm a very self-indulgent person. I like to luxuriate in whatever I've done because deep down, I probably don't believe I'm capable of it. It comes as a pleasant surprise. Deep down, I might not be Andy the writer. Maybe I'm still Andrew the accountant. But that's a problem for another day.

The problem for today is how long it takes to be self-indulgent as a novelist. You have to read a whole book! It was no problem when I was just doing a poem. Anything longer than three sides of A4 was generally too long to perform: you get timed slots. And songs were generally quite short. My longest was my Christmas song at eleven and a half minutes. You can still get on with stuff if there's a song playing. You just listen out for that bass run or that really cool organ bit that Ray Manzarek wishes he'd thought of. Painters, as they generally do, have it the easiest of all. Just hang it on a wall and glance at it. No-one even knows you're doing it.

As a novelist, though, to get properly self-indulgent, who have to sit down for a good couple of days. You can just zoom in on favourite bits, but then you feel bad that the rest of it isn't your favourite and start asking what's wrong with it. It gets complicated. Doubt sets in.

So now I have about 70% of a book to get self-indulgent about. It has a cool cover though. My friend Helen Cherry took the photo and posted it online. When I saw it, I regretted that I couldn't use it because the book was supposed to be called 'Across the Universe' and be mostly set in space. But when I realised how long it would take to tell the (supposedly preliminary) tale of them battling across a post-nuclear wilderness, she let me use it. She even resized it and made it purple.

And now I've just got to finish the damned thing so I can start being self-indulgent all over again! I know where it's going and it scares me. This will be the longest thing I've written by at least a hundred pages. There are several parallel story threads happening as it builds to the conclusion, several sub-plots. There's lots going on.

Writing is like riding a tiger. The hard part can be knowing how to stop. But I'm having a lovely time, killing people in interesting ways and discovering new and interesting things about America. A couple of weeks back, I had a helicopter following the Colombia River east, towards the Rockies, and when I checked the map, there was a place called The Dalles. I investigated this tiny hamlet and it turned out to have been the site of the first biochemical attack on American soil. And I just checked it out because I liked the name and thought I might be able to get a 'Dallas' pun in there somewhere! Maybe make all the residents be called J.R. or Bobby or Sue Ellen or something. But no, it was the home of a mad cult that gave 700 people salmonella so they could influence a county election and get planning permission to extend their compound. And that was after a prolonged campaign of wiretapping, attempted murder and all sorts.

Funny old world.

Anyway, I'm probably getting self-indulgent about self-indulgence now, so I'm going to go and be self-indulgent about my book instead. I've just got to a good bit :)

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