Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Just a quick note: MNW's second birthday has clearly attracted some attention from the sister mags Writers' News and Writing. In the latest issues, Writers' News contains a short piece on p8 (titled Happy Birthday Macmillan New Writing), including mentions and images of One Man's Empire and The Sleepwalker's Introduction to Flight; while p50-51 of Writing features a detailed article/interview with Ted Charles.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Six Random Facts

I know a number of MNWers have done this one on their own blogs, but I don’t have one of my own (said sulkily, with arms folded and a frown) so I’ll have to use this one, if that’s ok.
Declan over at Crime Always Pays has tagged me with the following meme, so with so many better things to do than this, here goes anyway:
Link to the person that tagged you.
Post the rules on your blog.
Write six random things about you in a blog post.
Tag six people in your post.
Let each person know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
Let the taggee know your entry is up.

1) I’m a coeliac, which means I can’t eat wheat, oats, bran, barley etc. which is a real pain when you’re looking for something handy to eat when out with the family or friends. And people assume it’s a lifestyle choice as opposed to an illness.
2) I taught myself how to play the piano when I was younger – though only mastered one piece of music – The Lonely Man Theme from the Incredible Hulk, by Joe Harnell. Still, that’s good enough for me…
3) The first proper book I wrote was when I was twenty about two psychiatrists, one of whom is a patient in his own asylum. The mad one was called Devlin. It was turned down by one publisher and, thankfully, I never sent it to another one after that. Nothing like being easily discouraged. The book was called One So High – and I might use that name again, too.
4) I have a scar on the top of my head from when I was six months old and got burned in a fire after faulty wiring in a heater set my cot alight. My Grandmother rescued me.
5) I started studying Biological Science at University for three months. Then, one Friday, while dissecting daisies in Plant Biology, I caught myself on and transferred into English. The university would only let me transfer if I sat the Christmas exam in English without having attended the lectures and passed it. Luckily for me, the main question on the exam was on Philip Larkin who I’d studied for A-level.
6) I used to take very bad panic attacks – and still do sometimes – which mean that, among other things, I wouldn’t fly anywhere. After going to a fear of flying course taken by a lovely woman from Liverpool called Stephanie Swain, I’ve managed to start flying again.

As I couldn’t be bothered to search out six blogs to tag, I suggest instead that any six MNWers who want to play give us six random facts about themselves instead. This of course also saves me having to leave six separate comments on aforementioned six random blogs, which perhaps defeats the purpose – I should have included a fact about how lazy I am too…

The Zeigarnik Effect

In 1927 the Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik found that waiters only remembered orders while they were in the process of being served. Once the transaction was completed, they immediately forgot the details. This led Zeigarnik to formulate the general principle that "we remember better that which is incomplete or unfinished".

Arguably this is the basis on which the cliff-hanger ending works, and it's a staple of much educational practice. It's also been recommended as a tool for writers: rather than finish your day's writing with a completed scene, leave it hanging. The next day you can take up where you left off, which gives you momentum for the subsequent scene.

Do any of you work like this? I've tried it, and found is thoroughly unsatisfactory. A scene which will be flowing one day (particularly if it's dialogue-intensive) will be drained of life when I take it up the next day. If I'm working on a scene, I have to finish it in one sitting (or at least stop at a natural break within the scene). I can then think about the next day's writing overnight so that I'm ready to go when I sit down at the screen.

Does the Zeigarnik Effect work for you?

Friday, 25 April 2008

Publishing News

In addition to Frances' great news regarding her new book, I thought fellow MNWers and friends might like to know that the very positive recent Publishing News piece on the imprint (and Gallows Lane, if I'm being completely honest) is now available on-line here.

God bless the Dutch!

I never thought I'd be the blogging sort, and now I fear I'm becoming a bore. But who else can I tell, who will understand? I've just heard that the Dutch love (and want) my new book (which doesn't come out until August, and has only just been proof-read, so how do they know?), and I wanted someone to celebrate with.
I promise I'll now shut up for a while. Or try to.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

On books and book hoarding

A visiting son, surveying the crammed bookcases in every room (not to mention the piles of books on surfaces and floors) asked me 'don't you ever get rid of any books?' And the answer of course is no. I know I'll probably never read more than half a dozen of them again, but that's not the point. I simply can't bear to part with books; any books. I love to HAVE them, look at them, remember where and when I read them, why I loved (or hated) them, lend them (and forget who I've lent them to). It's a kind of greed. I have books on subjects I'm not at all interested in, books I've inherited, books from childhood, stolen school text books. We have friends who literally discard paperbacks as soon as they've read them, and I find this quite incredible. Someone said that books furnish a room. I think they furnish a life. What does anyone else think? What do you do with your books?

Monday, 21 April 2008

Tumbleweed Time

A lot of the writer's life gets documented in the 'highs and lows' style: slaving away over a hot computer for hour after lonely hour, followed by the weirdness of attending your own launch event, and the absolute wonder of maybe being lucky enough to get a good review. The highs and lows I can deal with. It's the bit in the middle I have trouble with.

I've just finished writing a novel. I've just finished the publicity drive associated with having a novel released. I've decided these are two lulls in activity that should never occur at the same time, for the sake of the writer's sanity. I officially have nothing to think about. Nobody is contacting me, asking me to hurry up to meet a deadline. Nobody wants me to do an interview on local radio (although last time I did I was between two interesting guests - a guide dog and a man who had eaten a human testicle: verdict was salty, so maybe that's not a bad thing really...). No characters are clamouring for attention in my head. I don't know how many copies I've sold or how many words I've got to go. There's no shape to my life.

Bring back the problem of wrestling with a literary conundrum or the thrill of checking the proof. I'm going spare over here, and for some reason I can't just throw myself into the next book. Why must I have this blank period of time? What should I do with myself?

Q: When is a writer not a writer?
A: When nobody, not even a character, is paying attention to them.

Maybe, in my case, the characters are also the audience. Ooh, deep.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Congratulations, Brian

Warm congratulations to Brian, whose books seem to be selling like hot cakes (Borderlands down to 547 on Amazon today). Another very good advertisement for MNW (and a nice birthday present for, them too).

Thursday, 10 April 2008

UK Outcry revisited

Following on from David’s post about HarperCollins, Will Atkins sent over a link to the Guardian Blog which is debating this whole issue. Oddly enough, the blog is worded to seem like Macmillan New Writing are jumping on the band wagon, when in fact it is quite the other way round – but hey ho… We know who got there first, right?

Anyway, judging by some of the comments on the blog, it appears the same issue of advance vs a greater cut of the profit is rearing its head again, and I wonder what any of you think? After all, for the second timers the rules of the game change, with a clause giving Macmillan the option for a third book but under the advance/less royalties contract.

Personally, I’m at odds with advances because I look at being a writer pragmatically. In my day job I’ve never been advanced anything. I get paid on a monthly basis on the work I’ve just done in that month. And I’m guessing that most of you in day-jobs are paid similarly. I’ve never been loaned money by my employer for work I might do over the next 6 months, and would never dream of asking for an advance amounting to five years worth of output (which big advances usually amount to, and that’s if the publisher actually makes that money out of the author by the end of it). Despite the slow decline in the publishing industry, big advances are still fashionable. Last year, David posted a great blog entry on one such ludicrous advance, and just scrolling down the comments on the Guardian blog you can see that the world of crazy advances is alive and kicking.

Without intentionally loading the shotgun and aiming it squarely at my toes, I would rather have a smaller advance that just gets me there followed by a greater share of the profit, than be in debt to my publisher for the next five to ten years.
I think in a lot of ways, writing is about freedom, and having an albatross like that around my neck as a new writer is not something I’d find terribly appealing…
1/3rd off! Pre-order The Dog of the North for only £9.89!

It seems discounting has started early on The Dog of the North, now available for pre-order on for only £9.89 (RRP: £14.99). Also offering the title at below market price are Waterstones, and (My experiences of dealing with pickabook, however, are so uniformly poor that if I can cost them a single sale by my negative recommendation, I will be delighted).

Discounts are, on the surface, not good news for a Macmillan New Writer, whose royalties are calculated on the sale price. On the other hand, people are much more likely to buy a 470-page hardback for under a tenner than they are at fifteen quid. My primary interest, as an unknown debut novelist in hardback, is in sales volumes rather than high unit royalties.

I don't know whether such discount wars are common for a book no-one has heard of two months before it's published. What I do know is that it doesn't do my sales prospects any harm.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Happy Birthday Macmillan New Writing!!!

Yes, the imprint is two years old this month. And to mark the anniversary, Macmillan has discounted a selection of the MNW titles by 20%. This offer doesn’t last long though…*
All you need to do is guide your mouse arrow down to here, and click.

Easy peasy.

Oh, and a credit or debit card would be good to. And an address. Yes, a mailing address would be quite helpful...

(Now, enough of the shameless advertising… Back to David's Harpercollins debate…)

*ends 30th April!

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Stand back and wait for the outcry in the USA

Remember the screams when Macmillan New Writing was announced?

HarperCollins in the US has announced something rather similar. According to MediaBistro, their new, yet unnamed imprint "will offer minimal advances and instead split a much higher percentage of royalties with the authors."

These folks are serious about it, too. The new imprint will be headed by Robert Miller, the founder of and President of Hyperion, a legendarily successful small publisher. But the scheme as related by GalleyCat won't be based on royalties but rather profit-sharing. (!) Can you imagine how that would have been greeted if Macmillan had announced it that way? Profit-sharing is what Hollywoof offers you if they have no intention of paying you anything at all.

In any case, I'm glad to see we're wising up over here. And if HarperCollins were really smart, they'd fly to London, buy lunch for Mike, Will, and Sophie, and have a chat.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

The Imaginary Place

I've just posted a ramble on the Veggie Box blog about the assumed importance of real places in crime fiction, but does the same apply to other forms of fiction?

I'm assuming in terms of fantasy that a real location would be positively frowned upon. But how about science fiction?

It would be really interesting to write a historical novel in an imagined setting. Come to think of it, isn't that what Alis did? Did she start a whole new genre?

I've mixed the real and imagined in Light Reading, but my next book is keeping it all real. I think I prefer the freedom to make it up as I go along though (and I certainly prefer not having to do the research).

Someone set me straight - geographical or fantastical?

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

At it like Rabbit

I promise this is relevant, so bear with me:

Your Score: Rabbit

You scored 21 Ego, 14 Anxiety and 18 Agency!

It was going to be one of Rabbit's busy days. As soon as he woke up he felt important, as if everything depended upon him. It was just the day for Organizing Something, or for Writing a Notice Signed Rabbit, or for Seeing What Everybody Else Thought About It. It was a perfect morning for hurrying round to Pooh, and saying, "Very well, then, I'll tell Piglet," and then going to Piglet, and saying, "Pooh thinks--but perhaps I'd better see Owl first." It was a Captainish sort of day, when everybody said, "Yes, Rabbit " and "No, Rabbit," and waited until he had told them.

You scored as Rabbit!

ABOUT RABBIT: Rabbit is generally considered Clever by his many friends and relations. He is actually a much better reader and writer than Owl, but he doesn't consider it worth mentioning. Instead, Rabbit's real talent lies in Organizing Plans. He organizes rescue parties, makes schemes to reduce Tigger's bounciness, and goes on missions to find out what Christopher Robin does when he's not at the Hundred Acre Woods. Sometimes, however, his Plans do not always go as Planned.

WHAT THIS SAYS ABOUT YOU: You are smart, practical and you plan ahead. People sometimes think that you don't stress or worry, but this is not the case. You are the kind of person who worries in a practical way. You think a) what are my anxieties about? and b) what can be done about them? No useless fretting for you. You don't see the point in sitting around and waiting for things to work out, when you could actually work them out today and save yourself a lot of time and worry. Your friends tend to rely on you, because they know that they can trust you help them work things out.

You sometimes tend to be impatient with people who are less practical in their ways. You don't have much patience for idiots who moan about things but never actually DO anything about them. You have high expectations of everyone, including yourself. When you don't succeed at something, or when something goes wrong despite your best efforts to prevent it, you can get quite hard on yourself. You need to cut yourself some slack and accept that everyone has their faults, even you, and THAT IS OKAY. Let yourself be faulty, every now and then, for the sake of your own sanity.
The Deep and Meaningful Winnie-The-Pooh Character Test

I really thought I was going to be Eeyore, what with me being a miserable bastard and all, but thinking about it logically (and Captainishly), I suppose that I lack the trait of apathy (or is it a non-trait?), which Eeyore has in spades. And I have to say, this analysis is, by and large, bang on target. But it occurs to me that the Rabbit personality (anally retentive, hyperactive, perfectionistic and slightly narcissistic) might well describe the average writer.

So what I'm asking you, fellow MNWers, is this: are we all Rabbits or not? If not, what other Winnie-the-Pooh personalities do we have in the fold?