Friday, 19 July 2013

Book Post - Stuck

Middle East at Night (NASA, International Spac...
(Photo credit: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center)
It's an odd place to be in. Having finished Shemlan - A Deadly Tragedy, I'm having the odd potter with the manuscript, tidying a sentence here, clearing up a point there and adding little dashes of colour where that seems the right thing to do.

But if I tell the truth, I'm sort of marking time. It needs to go off for editing now, but I'm still waiting for one agent's feedback before I give up - again - on 'traditional' publishing. I'm reconciled to the fact that Middle Eastern spy thrillers are not going to sell to a UK publisher.

Which begs the question, what to write next? It's probably not going to be a Middle East spy thriller, given events so far. It's been great that loads of people have enjoyed Olives and Beirut, but 'loads' is relative and it hasn't added up to more than break-even with the project so far - and certainly isn't going to pay to have Shemlan printed. I'm still down a few thousand dollars on the deal. In fact, the only people who've made money so far have been the editors, printers and distributors.

Which makes one of us pretty dumb. And there are no prizes for guessing who's wearing donkey ears around here.

So what to write next? I know I will write a new book - it's already killing me that I haven't started. I've got a number of projects jostling for attention. A retired IRA bomber who's blackmailed out of his rest by modern day terrorists. A psychological thriller based around a damaged woman with amnesia, a whistleblower and a battlefield drug trial that's gone horribly wrong. And, oddly, an allegorical comedy based around a logical man's battle with authority are among the candidates that are banging around in my head like dodgems in a power surge.

The result of which is I'm stuck. I literally don't know what to do next. I've never had writers' block, but now I've got something worse - book block.

The answer might be to start on a romantic comedy or a vampire fantasy or something more 'commercial'. Trouble is, of course, neither I nor the publishing industry really knows what's 'commercial'...

In the meantime, I guess I'll just carry on tinkering.

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Macthomson said...

I wish I had your problem, MacNabb! I was impressed years ago by a post on The Guardian blog. In 2007 Neil Griffiths wrote that "Just because I write novels doesn't mean I know what the people in them are going to do next," and coined a term I have found useful... 'novel-inhabiting-people'. My imaginary 'people' are constantly telling me of their doings. I listen to them attentively and find myself compelled to start yet another manuscript. I am sure, if your listen very hard, you will hear Gerald Lynch telling you about what he is doing next!

I am convinced that he has probably decided to re-locate, to leave the Middle East. Not that he will fail to reflect further on the realities of Araby, but the setting of his next adventures will (possibly) be one which English readers may find themselves more able to identify with!

All of this, of course, begs the question as to why on earth we persist in writing fiction. That you should be out of pocket after all the effort you have devoted to promoting Olives and Beirut, using your skills as a professional marketer, is a deplorable state of affairs.

Nevertheless you will continue to put pen to paper and so shall I... because our friends, those novel-inhabiting-people, will not allow us to stop!

Alexander McNabb said...

I'm not sure the next one would feature old Gerald, Mac. Unless something dramatic happens to change my mind, he's going into a box, at least for a while. Whether that box is mahogany with brass handles remains to be seen...

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