Thursday, May 29, 2008

Best Laid Plans

You would be forgiven for thinking that my lack of activity on this blog over the past six months is due to an extraordinary amount of progress on my novel: hours and hours of sitting at my desk, churning out brilliantly written prose, hurtling through the chapters and finally finishing the first draft.

My total dedication to finishing the novel would definitely explain my lack of presence on the web, both here and on the numerous forums and communities that I usually gravitate to.

If only that were so. Unfortunately, there are a few other reasons why I have been a little bit “quiet” lately and none of them revolve around completing my novel (and none of them are all that exciting either).

At the start of the year, I listed my intentions for the first six months, identifying my priorities and putting together a battle plan. Completing the first draft of my novel was the first priority.

It was my intention to have a completed first draft and three polished chapters to take with me to Harrogate Crime Festival 2008. There was no expectation that anyone would be asking for them at the festival, but I hoped to make contact with agents and / or publishers, grab a business card or two. Then, as the battle plan dictated, I would make a submission to these nice people, while my face and name were still fresh in their mind. I would have three chapters ready to go and a completed draft behind me, not only for the off chance that someone would like to see a partial or full manuscript but for confidence and practicality. Consensus says that it is best to approach agents and publishers when you’ve got a completed novel to hand over if so requested to do so. Nothing worse than being asked for something you don’t have.

Sound battle plan.

Then came reality. The goal with the lowest priority, performing well in my temporary promotion at work, took over and monopolised my time. The new position equated to long hours and mountains of frustration. Sure the experience was worth a lot, I don’t begrudge that, but ultimately, my true calling suffered.

In short, the first draft isn’t complete. Not by a long shot. And to tell you the truth, as I sit and type this, I am at my most frustrated and lowest point as a writer thus far. And what’s even more frustrating is that my disappointment doesn’t come from producing a piece of writing I’m not happy with or finding out that I’m not much of a writer after all, but it’s the fact that I haven’t had the chance to do what I set out to do. I haven’t had the time and the consistency that I believe I need to get this novel completed. Writing a few thousand words one day and then nothing for a week is not an efficient or effective writing approach. For one whole month in March/April, I hardly sat in front of the computer at all.


But I must look forward and I must stay focused and positive. I won’t be able to do what I had planned for Harrogate and I don’t propose to take short cuts like submitting chapters without a full draft backing it up – that’s not the approach I want to take. So, instead, I have to regroup and get back into a routine of writing and not worry about a potential wasted opportunity.

And really, it won’t be wasted at all. Harrogate will be a blast no matter what – it is such a great experience for any budding writer. You talk to people, listen to what they have to say, soak up information and advice from the best in the business; and you have a bit of fun. It all makes a difference. I might even take a few chapters along with me; just in case.

You never know.

Friday, May 16, 2008

John Connolly - A Top Bloke

Last night, I attended a book signing at Borders Oxford Street for John Connolly’s new book, The Reapers. From my readings of blogs and websites and after seeing him at Harrogate a few years ago, I knew him to be the type of author who is admired by his fans and respected by his peers. I had also read two of his books, Every Dead Thing and The Book of Lost Things, both very entertaining novels. When I saw posters advertising his bookstore appearance, I penned it in my diary to attend, expecting an entertaining hour of readings, questions and signings. What I got was a lot more.

Borders had set up a section on the first floor for about 20-30 people in front of a podium with a microphone and numerous stands displaying John Connolly’s books. John arrived and spent a good twenty minutes talking through aspects and elements of his new novel, The Reapers, in a quite informal, informative and entertaining fashion. The next 20 was taken up by Q&A. I really enjoyed it all and took away many good pointers about writing. John also talked about some of the elements contained in his new book, including male heterosexual relationships and what drives someone to kill. We were also treated to a reading from loose sheets of paper constituting an extract from Draft 1 of John’s novel in progress, The Lovers. All very good stuff.

As I was lining up to have my copy of The Reapers signed by John, he announced to the audience that if they were so inclined, we could all head to a local bar for a beer and a more informal chat. This sounded wonderful, a great chance to meet John and a handful of his many fans (including Sarah Higgins, a fellow Harrogate attendee and BTZ forum member). It was an invitation I wasn’t expecting and something I had never encountered before. I was pleasantly surprised.

After the books were signed, nice of us, including John and his publisher, headed to a reserved area in a pub off Oxford Street and John most generously shouted us some drinks. We chatted and mingled, talking about anything and everything, not just centred on his novels and had a great laugh. It was a very informal get together that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I was floored again by John’s generosity when he invited us all to dinner. How about that? I couldn’t believe it! It was a nice gesture to his devout fans and something, I could tell, he really wanted to do for them.

The seven of us who had dinner with John included three fans who had travelled from Iceland, Belgium and Spain just to be at this book signing. Everyone was known to John through the forum on his website and through meetings at crime writing festivals and previous readings; they were all very dedicated followers of his work. Ultimately, though, his invitation was open to everyone who had turned up at the signing and I was lucky enough to be able to tag along.

It was a lovely evening, very entertaining and informative and a great experience. I also got to know more about John Connolly, who proved himself to be a real generous and nice guy.

Or in Aussie parlance – a top bloke.

Thanks John!