Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The Fear

"If you're afraid you don't commit yourself to life completely; fear makes you always, always hold something back."
-Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, by Philip K. Dick

I'm not sure I completely agree with that. (And it's important to point out that this is a character's speech, not necessarily PKD's own opinion). There's nothing wrong with a healthy fear, but you have to know when it's worth paying attention to, when it's irrational and when it might actually be something of an unnecessary roadblock.

For a writer there is always the fear of the blank page. Starting a story is hard. Even when you have an idea of plot and character. Of course, this ties in with the writer's other fear - It's not perfect. Of all the varied, wondrous, practical, bizarre and sometimes contradictory writing advice you will find on the internet, one of the most common pieces is to accept that a first draft is a first draft, to accept that it will most likely be bad, to begin with, and that the important thing is to write on, and finish. But it can be a difficult thing to accept. If you know that paragraph is wrong, it will itch at you.

I want to talk about a different fear though.

I am a reader. I am fairly well-read within 'my' genres, although not as well-read as I would like to be (and I suspect I never will be). I like to review the books I read. A symptom of over a decade as a bookseller, maybe. Something exacerbated by my creative writing degree, no doubt, an environment which encourages examination and deconstruction of texts.

And I have to be honest. If I found something disappointing, I have to say. If I think certain elements didn't work in an otherwise excellent book, I have to say. If I think great characters were squandered on a weak idea, I have to say. You get the idea. I can be picky, because I want a book to carry me away, and little things often bother me.

Now herein lies the fear. One day, I want to be published. I will be published. And there's a part of me that fears I will offend a potential publisher.

Take, for example, my review of Dreams and Shadows, a novel soon to be published by Gollancz. And this is a review which is very positive. I say some people will find the book perfect and I finish:
"Dreams and Shadows will blow you away. Beautiful writing, far-reaching imagination, and tragedy that will haunt you long after you finish the book. Remarkable."
But I also mention minor criticisms. And I worry that someone might take note, might react badly (as people are want to do when criticised).

Now, in an ideal world, Gollancz would be my first choice of publisher. I have immense respect for them. I more often find the books I am anticipating, the ones that excite me, are published by them than anyone else. Of course, in making that statement, I open myself to another fear, if Gollancz don't want me when I finally get around to touting a novel (you know, having actually finished writing one, and editing it), then will I have offended another publisher by publicly stating that Gollancz were my first choice...?

Of course, the odds of someone at Gollancz remembering my name, and a not quite 100% review, are slim. Almost as slim as some other publisher reading this and taking offence. But the fear is there nonetheless.

(And it is the fear that prompts me to add that I'm not saying I don't like any other publishers. There are many other fantastic publishing houses out there (I say in genuine sincerity). I'd name some, but there are many, and I'd be sure to miss someone, and well, the cycle begins anew...)

Here's the thing though. I ummed and ahhed about posting the review, as I have with others before that, but ultimately, I posted it. I can't help it, I like to think about things I've just read, and I like to talk about them. And I have to be honest, I have to be true to myself.

And I have to hope that doesn't scupper me before I've even built my boat.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

It's a bit quiet in here...

A blog! A post! Or... what should I call these things?

Whatever they are, here is one. ;D

And it begins with the mantra of the bad blogger...

I will do this more often,
I will write here regularly,
For sure, this time.

But since it's been a while lets make it a 'state of the union' type affair. Where we at?

So back in November I decided I wasn't going to do nanowrimo. Not because I have anything against it, I really don't, I just don't do well with pressure and deadlines, they make me put things off. I can be terribly contrary.

But I did decide I would try and power on and properly begin work on a novel. After a few false starts and dead ends, I reached 30,000 words by the end of November. And hey, I'm pretty happy with that. 30k a month for three months is more or less a first draft. Except...

Except I haven't written any since. I've written, sure. This and that. Some short stories that may or may not be part of an entirely different book. Some drabbles. And in some ways I don't mind that. What works for me, when I am most productive, is when I feel free to pootle around and write as I please. I was feeling a bit stressed about the book, a bit flat about the idea, but now I feel a little recharged. I'm going to get back to it.

And when I'm not in the mood maybe I'll write a bit more of the other thing. Or start work on one of the other two or three novel ideas I have in my mind right now. (not to mention the forty/ fifty odd ideas I have stashed around the place in folders and notepads...)

So, I'm writing, and one day there will be books. And one day they will be published. =)