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A novel way to spend one's spare time

PostPosted: Fri Mar 31, 2006 1:20 pm
by howard male
A few weeks ago I was asked if I could write a 17,000 word story to be serialised in 25 weekly parts in a Japanese, English language newspaper. Being in need of the cash, obviously I said yes straight away, even though the idea of writing fiction had never before entered my head - but where there's a will there's a way.

Anyway, I suddenly found myself steaming past the 17,000 word mark, and enjoying myself as much as when I used to write music. Maybe I had the makings of a proper novel here, rather than just something aimed at bored Japanese students.

I now reckon I've got about half of a potential novel roughed out, and wondered if there were any other would-be, could-be, actual, or closet novelists out there amongst forum contributors who have any pearls of wisdom to offer me.

For example a friend emailed the other day recommending I read Donna Tartt's The Secret History, when he heard my story was a murder mystery. I had felt it was a little naff, corny, cheap, or just plain obvious to announce my victim's death on the very first page as I had done, but as soon as I started reading Tartt, there was this respected novelist doing just that - and not just on the first page - in the first sentence!

My story is set in London and spans the whole of the seventies. It's also (surprise surprise) set in and around the music business.

So if anyone else has any pearls of wisdom on handling the task of structuring a novel, or recommendations on excellent books about the seventies (having now reached 40,000 words I'm starting to reach the limits of remembered knowledge) I'd be extremely grateful.


PostPosted: Fri Mar 31, 2006 5:17 pm
by garth cartwright
i have to ask - how do you get such fascinating and odd work? Andhow do i get some?!? As for novels, i wrote one in the 90s, got a dodgy agent and she shopped it round but there were no takers. I think u may find the experience similar to when you were in a band - yr effort, unless it is a literary masterpiece or so commercial publishers wish to throw cash at you, will be compared to what's hot in the current marketplace and you will be evaluated as to how saleable you are as an author. My experience of the publishing world with Princes Amongst Men has been as depressing as that of many musicians i've interviewed with the music biz. but all i can add is - go for it, these things are often lotteries and you never know when your number may come up.

PostPosted: Fri Mar 31, 2006 5:44 pm
by howard male
Garth wrote -

i have to ask - how do you get such fascinating and odd work? Andhow do i get some?!?

I don't normally to be honest. A friend, who is an illustrator, has lived in Tokyo for about 15 years, but this is the first time he's been able to pass any work on to me. Perhaps because I've only recently officially become a writer.

Garth wrote -

My experience of the publishing world with Princes Amongst Men has been as depressing as that of many musicians i've interviewed with the music biz.

I'm really disappointed to hear that, because you got such rave reviews! What's wrong with the book buying public?

I think my book (if it turns out OK) could be potentially commercial - by accident rather than design - as the seventies seem to be in at the moment & murder mysteries are usually popular - but what do I know - we'll just have to see. One has to remain optimistic.

PostPosted: Fri Mar 31, 2006 6:27 pm
by jayne

A friend is about to have her first book published by a leading house. From what I can gather it’s a Terry Pratchett meets The Lord of the Rings comedy. What really convinced her agent was that she told him she had four sequels in the pipeline. That got his pound signs rolling. The real clincher was when she outlined her thoughts about licensed tat, executive stress-busting toys, a clothing range and associated excrescence.

I am unsure whether she actually has another book in the pipeline, but the thought of this milch cow had the agent and publishers salivating. From what I gather, it didn’t matter if my friend was a serial tosher or the next Nabokov , so long as she could provide a long-term income stream.

Nothing changes.

Good luck with the project.


PostPosted: Sat Apr 01, 2006 3:07 am
by taiyo no otosan
Howard - no tips on novel writing I'm afraid, but, since I live in Japan, I'd be interested to know which publication you'll be in. Or is it one of those published in the UK for students there?

PostPosted: Sat Apr 01, 2006 12:32 pm
by howard male
Thanks for that Jayne. It's going to be tricky coming up with an idea for a sequel when my main character is dead! But I've already got an idea brewing. After all, once a rock star is dead, their story is usually only just beginning.

And Taiyo - I actually don't know the name of the publication as my friend hasn't told me yet, and I've not bothered to ask! But I've just emailed him so should know soon, so I'll get back to you on that one. All I know is that my story will either run from July or December for 6 months.


PostPosted: Sat Apr 01, 2006 1:17 pm
by garth cartwright
Howard, the problem is not with the book buying public it's with the publishers. Same as with music - if a musician has, say, World Circuit or its equivalent behind them there's a good chance the CD will be reviewed, heard, promoted, noted etc. If the same CD is released on a major who are interested only in greater earners it can be easily buried. Ironically, my publisher is an indie and I feel Princes would of had a better chance if it had come out on a major - i won't go into reasons why but it was essentially 'buried'. I'm still pleased i wrote it and that it's out there for people to peruse - the recent London Gypsy Film Festival obviously studied its filmography! - just a pity that a wider part of the book reading public never got to know of its existence. Anyway, the publishing market is very like the music biz just more posh, less democratic ie you can't just send a book to someone like Charlie on the offchance they might like it and give you some promo across several weeks as you can with a CD. But go for it, you may find your experience the complete opposite to mine and find huge cheques rolling in, Hollywood calling, every broadsheet wanting your opinion on whatever's topical and such. And good luck! [/quote]

PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2006 12:35 pm
by DD
Hello Howard,

From my experience of having books published it is important to concentrate on your percentage and look carefully at the royalty statements.


PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2006 4:19 am
by judith
(continued from New Releases)...I was wondering if you are working on your novel. Your entries have been somewhat briefer of late.

PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2006 8:14 am
by howard male
Judith wrote -

I was wondering if you are working on your novel. Your entries have been somewhat briefer of late.

Well, yes and no.

I was advised by a woman at a publishing company who kindly gave me an hour of her time (which she later told me would have cost me £600 had I been a private client of hers - no jokes please) that I should put my manuscript away in a drawer for three months so that I can come back to it from a fresh perspective and see it more objectively - as if someone else had written it. But because my short-term memory is virtually non-existent these days I can actually come back to my manuscript the next morning and get virtually the same effect. But I nevertheless decided to take her advice.

However the problem was, the shorter version of the story (mentioned in my original posting) has not completely satisfied the Japanese paper that commissioned it (too many characters for their English learning readers to keep up with, and a fractured timeline which might be hard for them to follow) that I've not been able to escape the damn thing. And it is much harder to rewrite and simplify a story than write it in the first place. You take a couple of characters out and suddenly the whole house of cards starts to collapse.

This deadline pressure (combined with moving flat and a sick mother) have meant that stocking up Charlie's forum with fresh sweeping statements has been the least of my concerns. Although I've still managed to find time to keep up with Dayna and Richie's amusingly dysfunctional dialogues and Adam's wonderful music lessons (and buggering bear joke.)

PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2006 9:22 pm
by judith
Thanks Howard for taking the time in the midst of all to reply. On the up side - as composers, carpenters, and cooks always say, if you can't change one thing without changing something else, it isn't well crafted.

Good luck

PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2006 9:32 pm
by gordonfmoore
howard male wrote:Thanks for that Jayne. It's going to be tricky coming up with an idea for a sequel when my main character is dead!

Didn't stop the writers of Dallas re Bobby Ewing!

Can I have a percentage of the royalties please for the suggestion :)