How to write without feeling intimidated by the blank page

Writing is and always will be an intimidating process – there are so many ways to go wrong and so few ways that instantly feel right to an inexperienced mind. Besides this, sitting down to write often requires the engagement of emotions which are not altogether comfortable, but are nothing less than essential in the deployment of all creative endeavours. Additionally, those who express an interest in learning to write face about a hundred enormous obstacles: will I be any good at it? Is there any fucking point? Will anybody actually read my bloody stuff? Is it possible to be a writer and not be poor and jaded forever? This is accompanied by a damaging cultural belief, in many societies, that in the age of the internet, absolutely anyone can be a writer. And if anyone can be a writer, writing must be easy. Writing, in the minds of many, is either a profession for mega-rich authors, journalists or students not yet at peace with their place in life, fumbling through until they no longer have to write any more. Yet the importance of written communication is a dominating force. Surrounded by such complexities and tarnished by the blight of a million terrible Amazon novels, it’s hardly surprising that putting words down can feel so difficult.

Reading this blog post probably won’t change any of that much – although it may illuminate a few things which help reveal ways to cope (a bit like this post from a long time ago on writer’s block).

Consider how incredible the concept of writing is

The controlled transfer of thoughts to paper or screen by way of fingers is a mesmerizing thing when you stop and really think about it. When we write in a way that can be accurately understood, we’re directly connecting our thoughts and feelings with those of everyone around us (or, at least, those who take the time to read them!). This is an incredible act of physical and psychological union – better than mind-reading, in a way, as the thoughts are pure and distilled and a reader doesn’t (usually) have to fight past an endless stream of consciousness to get to the good bits. So, if you’re feeling intimidated, consider that you are engaging in something fantastic and incredibly unique. Talking’s great and all, and painting a picture is a fine way to interact with others and share our thoughts, but writing is the honed and crafted direct observations of human beings. That’s quite something, don’t you think?

You can always write more

I don’t care if you’ve just finished writing your first novel and lost it – well, I do, I feel quite sorry for you, but you get what I mean – or if you’ve just wiped-out that blog post you’ve been working on for a week. You can always write more stuff. The preciousness of thought and time means that most of us get quite attached to our writing, often in an unhealthy way. We struggle to say goodbye to it, even when we know we can do better. Yet saying goodbye to it is exactly what builds stronger foundations. A better ability to cope with change and keep on going, past the constraints of rejection. The fact that you can just begin again a few minutes or hours later means that words are infinitely powerful.

Words are organic and unlimited. Aside from a few nightmarish notions fed to us by disenchanted people and critical self-esteem issues which beg you to do anything else instead, there is nothing stopping your words affecting people in the same way that the so-called great novelists of our time have – words are your chance to tell the world precisely what you think in any way that you desire. If that doesn’t act as an incentive to better one’s ability to communicate via the medium of words, I don’t know what does.

What you have written has been written before, but so what?

I often hear the argument – the bad argument, the terrible, meaningless argument – that writing has been done so well so many times before that there is no point pursuing it as an activity or occupation. It simply is not true. It doesn’t matter in the least. There will nearly always be someone out there who you know who is better than you, or more capable. It’s irrelevant. That a million people have attempted and failed to finish their novels does not mean that you will suffer the same fate. Even though the outcome for a new writer may be statistically likely to be similar, where writing is concerned, statistics are only worth the value we give them.

Know that the act of writing will bring about joy and self-growth, no matter what its end result

Contrary to popular misconception, the important thing about writing is not solely the act of committing words to paper or screen. The other very important thing is enjoying doing it. Out of all the times I have written blogs, articles or novels, I can only truly recall a couple of times where I in no way benefited from the process. Writing brings enormous entertainment, stimulation, inspiration and enjoyment. It’s a proven thing that those experiencing the flow state of writing are at one with themselves and, while being alone, are anything but lonely.

Unsure of what to write?

This is a subject I have covered extensively in a past blog. My best advice to those who are trying to write and feeling consistently daunted by it is…try and think about what you really want to say. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, it could be very small. It could be a seemingly inconsequential observation that leads to bigger, pivotal things. In writing, small things grow into big things with very little encouragement. The great thing is that it happens automatically, you just need to commit some time.

Failing that, consider what you don’t want to say. Writing does not always have to follow strict rules and regulations. If you’re completely unable to write anything at all, then why not ask yourself the question of why this is the case. Why not try to formulate this feeling of frustration into meaningful words?

Stop listening to others who say they find writing easy

Again, this truly is irrelevant to you. How does it matter how well someone else does something? Who cares if they’ve only been writing seriously for a year and have written their first novel draft, beginning to end, one-hundred-thousand words? It simply does not matter in any way to you and what you’re doing, and it never will. And again, be careful not to run away with yourself. Writing is a learned craft which cannot be rushed.

I remember when I first started to write about 10 years ago. Writing came very naturally to me, because I didn’t know what I was doing and it felt exciting to write without restriction. So accept that writers go through stages. Important stages that cannot be missed or circumnavigated. Those at the very beginning may find writing almost effortless, as they are naïve and lack the constraints presented by rules. Those who are well-practiced in the art may write in what appears to be a reasonably effortless way, owing to their growing knowledge-base and many hours of practice. If you’re somewhere in the middle, however, and a blank page is intimidating you, there is a possibility that this is all part of a very important process that must be endured and worked through. So try to relax and have fun when writing. If you can only do one thing, write stuff that makes you really smile.

Do you have any advice for fellow writers, or those who would like to begin writing but don’t know where to start? Feel free to leave a comment below, like it or share it on Facebook/Twitter. Let’s see what we can get together and learn.

 

 

Some Men Think Female Writers Have It Easier: Here’s Why I Disagree

EL James…the woman who single-handedly reminded housewives everywhere what naughty naughty sex is all about. Notice the work I have done on her cleavage. And no, she’s not supposed to be a Simpsons character, but I can see where you’re coming from

You look at the facts — no, let’s get this straight from the beginning…what you believe are the facts — and it’s easy to form a solid, unshakeable opinion when it comes to writing and the sexes. It’s an enormously biased one which focuses solely on one side of the argument, and very quickly you’re convinced: women writers have it easy, or easier, while male writers — excluding the big names — struggle to get their voices heard. The more you think it, the more frustrated you become. Soon, everything you see in life supports this claim, and anyone questioning you is clearly wrong. Female writers? They don’t know how lucky they have it.

I know this because for some time, up until relatively recently, I had been convinced that female writers had it somewhat easier when it comes to gaining attention and the like. My reasoning? Like many, it was the following simplistic world view:

1) Women make up the majority of novel/short story readers on this planet: fact.

2) Many literary agents are female (the exact number is highly debateable, as is their precise level of sway within an industry which is difficult to pin-down and almost impossible to predict).

3) All over the internet, female writing groups are appearing. I doubt anyone would argue with me that the number of female-specific groups largely outweighs male-centric groups. Suddenly, being a female writer is rife with opportunity.

4) Women are (arguably) generally better at offering emotional support — although statistics show that in reality, men are as likely to be empathic as women — and doing this in a productive way which benefits everyone in a group, both on and offline. This alone (apparently) makes being a female writer preferable — commercially speaking — to being a male writer. In short: if you’re trying to sell your debut novel to the world, it’s quite likely that the support of your fellow sex will come in very handy. Even if you are an experienced writer, writing is constantly in a state of flux, so at any time you need all the help you can get.

These are the main reasons. There are many more besides but the point remains the same: on the surface, it would appear that women are at a serious advantage and that men haven’t got a hope in hell. I don’t blame men for thinking this — I know the frustration of breaking through as much as any male writer — although I would urge them to consider all perspectives before they start speaking of this situation as if it is fact.

Thing is, I just don’t believe it now. Another thing is this: I’m getting sick of hearing men complain about it. Here’s why (in relation to the aforementioned points) I think we all need to stop and consider this argument. Maybe then we can work together and not apart.

1) So what if the majority of readers are women? It doesn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter. A good book is a good book, and to say that women only read female fiction is an outrage and a lie (if you need further convincing, look at the new-style crime-fiction which many women have taken to both reading and writing). I haven’t conducted a survey, but I am willing to say in writing here that there are millions of women who like to read every kind of genre — thrillers, comedies, history and non-fiction as well as chick-lit. If this fact is true, then, in my opinion, it makes a mockery of the argument that men are at a disadvantage. Publishing may be unequal in many respects, often favouring men — in particular with the books that get reviewed by the biggest publications out there — but that doesn’t mean that every aspect is.

Another important thing to consider, like it or not — and I can only assume that some male writers reading this will not like it — is this: traditionally speaking, women are more in-tune with their feelings, and this is something which I believe is essential for writing of any kind. Could the reason some male writers feel downtrodden be the simple fact that they simply lack the emotional insight that makes writing of this nature possible? I know I’m going to piss a few people off by saying that, but here’s the thing: don’t take it personally. This isn’t an attack on male writers, it’s merely an investigation into what’s really going on here, or what might be in some situations. My point, then, is this: if you’re not able to write about the emotions and inner-world of your characters — more than that: their relationship with the world and the intense kind of thoughts which we all have yet don’t always make public — then your books probably won’t appeal to a large percentage of women out there who make up your potential audience. But there’s no need to panic. There are numerous genres which do not capitalise on this standpoint, and plenty of male writers have success each and every year with books that are a million miles away from the label of chick-lit. Many of these books are written with men in mind, and there are numerous examples of male writers — such as Wilbur Smith — who cater for this audience (or could be seen to).

Even if all this were not true, there are still a lot of male readers out there with big reading habits. Look at the enormous success of Fight Club and you will see that the book had a lot in common with much of women’s grittier fiction. Dark as it was, the writing was about what really mattered to men and this is what people want to see. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female as far as I am concerned: readers will always want to read books which they connect with. This is our ultimate challenge, and gender stereotyping doesn’t have to get in the way of it.

2) If you’re worrying about sending your manuscript to a female literary agent and it being rejected because you are male, stop it, wipe that out of your mind right now. You have much bigger things to worry about and they are not going away any time soon. It won’t be rejected because you are male — probably, unless your work is deemed repulsive or disrespectful to women and that agent found it especially offensive —  it’ll be rejected because it just wasn’t good enough. Fact. If a female writer produces a better novel than you do, one which is believed to have a better chance of commercial success, then it will almost certainly be accepted. Of course, there are holes in this argument: the agent might be looking for another female writer, or she might simply be of a disposition which makes her more likely to choose a book which is traditionally more female (although I don’t like that term: I think it’s condescending. Male and female attributes can be interchangeable after all, and there is absolutely no reason to suggest that a man cannot write the kind of story which women want to read). Complicating matters further is the fact that just as there are sexist males out there, there are sexist females who just won’t get on with male fiction and will always be against it. Even if you’re a man who writes under a female name — as many romance novelists have been known to — you may be at a disadvantage. But that? It’s just called LIFE, so it’s a waste of time moaning about it.

My own Fight Club poster (watercolour on paper)

Another thing to take note of is that before most manuscripts make it to a literary agent, they go to an assistant for initial evaluation. This means that there is often as much chance of a man reading your novel as a woman (debatable, as many women perform a dual-role as admin/assistant and slush-pile reader, but possible nonetheless). Note: this isn’t just me making assumptions. I can verify much of this with real experience, as many of my editors are females, and in the past I’ve had contact with a number of female literary agents — all who have accepted work from male authors and will continue too as long as they can see good business sense in it.

3) The debate about online female writing groups/reading groups is the perfect breeding ground for male anger and female resentment; in this debate, all the elements of psychology, common sense, reasoning and rationality often go out the window and are replaced with bitterness, anger, frustration and sheer disgust for the incredible success of others. And when you think about it…why shouldn’t the men out there be a little bit miffed? I can, in some ways, see the complainers’ point and see this from both sides. Although, in this case, I would argue that what many men are angry about isn’t the fact that these groups exist. It’s that they feel isolated. That they are not included. They simply wish — as I do sometimes, I have to be honest — that more male writing groups existed. Well, wake the fuck up, dudes, it’s not womens’ fault that evolution turned out this way. Besides, if you’re that concerned, get off your arse and start your own writing group like many of these talented female authors have. Don’t say “they’ll just call us sexist,” either, because to be honest who cares? Women received the same backlash and it did not stop them from forging their own path. I’m talking about history, too. Women haven’t exactly had it easy, have they now? Anything they have achieved in fiction writing should be commended, not belittled.

4) Now onto Women are (arguably) generally better at offering emotional support…

First, let’s look at the case of female comedians: ever noticed how there are very few, popular, professional female comedians out there? It’s got to be hard operating in a world which is so completely male-dominated; where everyone says “you’re shit,” even when you’re actually very good. And the worst thing is that as funny as some of these women are, even after battling for years to reach a similarly high level as some men, they still suffer from a lack of respect — both from peers and the general public. Where men can fiddle their tax and all but get away with it, when a woman steps out of line then the playground politics come out; if she fights against it she’s a know-it-all-bitch, and if she says nothing she’s guilty — regardless of the evidence. Because that’s what it’s all about: composing stories which suit our way of thinking — agreable stories which we can, subconsciously or not, manipulate until we’re satisfied we’re being discriminated against and the world is out to get us. Our biases outweigh everything, after all, and as humans searching for answers where there is often only a complicated pattern of events, there really isn’t a whole lot we can do about that! After a life-time of conditioning and being told that male comedians are better, very few of us are able to see through the bullshit and view everyone on even ground.

So, circumstance can be a pain.

And that’s all this is, I think. It’s not womens fault that they help one another, look after one another and rally to support their friends when the time comes and help is needed. It also isn’t their fault that, when meeting a new female friend, they are often able to put aside their own agendas — like the desire to sell their own book, or their own pure arrogance — and act in a supportive manner. The fact that many men are not capable of this should have nothing to do with it. For me, that us men are so far behind in creating our own reading-group sub-culture is a separate thing and should be treated as such. If us men want things to change then the first thing we all need to do is to stop being jealous and asserting blame. Women have been through a hell of a lot of shit in the past few hundred years, less you forget: they carry our children and often bear enormous parental responsibilities when times get tough (not that men also don’t, but come on guys, we’re not the ones actually having the babies, are we?). These are separate issues too, so come on, let’s focus on the right things. Surely that’s got to be possible? I’m hoping we’re about to find out.

,

The eternal troublemaker

This is all about commas: what they are, what they do, what they’re for and why they are so crucial. But, just to be clear, this post isn’t going to be a how-to. In my opinion, using commas is an intuitive thing which cannot be taught — the basics can, of course, but to my mind, saying much more than that is like telling someone how to speak and when to pause, and I don’t believe in that (and besides, most people have a basic grasp of what a comma does and how it is used, even if they’re not sure why and sometimes make mistakes). What this post is about is pointing out the things I have noticed over the years. Some may seem obvious. Others are more complex. All of them are things which help me understand how writing benefits from them.

Number 1: commas aren’t essential, but understanding their effect is.

In life, when it comes to commas, I guess there are 4 main groups of people. You have those who can’t live without them and stick them in everywhere, knowingly, enjoying the process of dividing up their work, and then you have 2) those who avoid them at all times because they prefer simpler prose, and 3) those who fall somewhere in the middle, and can’t work out what the hell is best. Lastly, you have group 4) people who haven’t got a clue where to use a comma and just shove them in where it feels right. I often find myself in the 3rd category (and hope I have not recently been in the fourth!). I like experimenting with both commas and no commas, and how much/where I employ them — an apt word, I think, seeing as they’re doing a hell of a job — depends on the POV I’m using, the tone of the work, and the effect I want to convey. It’s all about effect. That’s why in thrillers you sometimes see long comma-less sentences dragging you through some hellish situation usually involving murder and mayhem, in an attempt to rack up the tension. Equally, punctuating a paragraph with lots of commas is great if you want to stall the reader slightly in certain places. Like a slight pause to take a breath. Think of it like walking down a corridor, and the comma is a wall which drops down out of the ceiling every few steps, making you stop before it slides back up to reveal some hideous monster, or a romantic moment. There are many different kinds of corridor so I’ll let you choose your own.

One thing which I think confuses people about commas is the fact that they’re not always there to provide a slight pause. Sometimes they’re there for purely technical reasons — rolling commas for creating a list — and s0metimes they’re there to separate words from one another so that sense can be mad and clarity can be had. Other times, still, commas dictate a critical rythm to a novel or book and changing this formula part-way through can be as worst disastrous, at best irritating. To make it even more confusing, occasionally, a skilled author might change the rate of comma usage deliberately to mess with your head, making you read faster or slower, depending on what is coming and what has been before. And the list goes on…

There is no comma school that I am aware of. You can’t go and stay at The Comma Academy and learn it all and then come home and feel content in the knowledge that you now fully understand and are as capable as the next person. The best thing you can do is read books and re-read books. Read your own work and re-read it, moving commas and mentally noting why it does or does not work; how things are different. The key is to know the effect commas have on your work, because without giving this due thought, you are writing blind. Worse, your confusing your reader, forcing them to go back over your last paragraph. Something you don’t ever want a reader to do — unless they enjoyed it so much they felt compelled to.

I found my copy in Oxfam and it cost me £2. Great price for an amazing book which every writer needs to own

Number 2: if you want to write books which matter, understanding the comma is your all-time best-friend

Because writing is my job, this tends to have a knock-on effect with my friends and family. For example,when writing to me, some people seem to feel the need to be more articulate than they might be with someone who doesn’t write all the time — I have been told this by friends — and others write emails which seem unnaturally perfect. When I cross-check these emails with the person I know in real life, it’s easy to notice that this person has spent much longer formulating their email than they usually would do. This unnerves me and I always tell people this: I couldn’t give a monkey’s if friends write to me in that fast-paced, slightly incomprehensible way which is so common in the social-networking world. Actually, I’d welcome it! As long as I can understand what the hell they’re on about, that’s all that matters to me.

Writing a novel is completely different. If a subject matters to you — and it surely must, damn it, as you’re dedicating hundreds of hours to it which could be spent doing anything else — then your ultimate goal should be to create the most clear vision of your work that is possible. The ideas on that page shouldn’t just be good, they should, instead, be a direct representation of precisely what you mean and think. And it’s sentences like that which make me panic: this post is full of commas. Is it saying what I mean? Yeah, I think so. Although we all have to accept that just like a painting or a sculpture, a creation is never exactly what we set out to achieve at the start. There are always gaps where more thoughts should have been, and every book ever written is just one possible version of that work. Had each sentence been written in a different time, in a different place — even just a few seconds later — then the work would have been different. It all depends on so very many things: mood, blood pressure, what someone said to you at work the day before; the hopes and dreams which surprise us daily and the things which take place which are unexpected, lunging us into a different train of thought.

Number 3: putting a comma in the wrong place can alter the reader’s perception forever.

Commas are madness. They matter so much (and we haven’t even started on the full-stop/period). The fact that comma placement matters so much can be savage on the mind of a writer. Hear the comma roar! Savage, I tell you. It causes procrastinaton and makes us second-guess ourselves — something us writers are already notoriously bad for. To make matters even worse, commas can seem to be in the right place for months, and then later on you can re-read the draft of a novel and decide that actually…they’re all in the wrong fucking place. There’s no way to change this, of course — fucksticks! — and this is where we come back to accepting something is as good as it gets (or as good as time will allow us to get it).

I can’t speak for everyone in the world, but for me, personally, when I read anything and the commas don’t make sense, it completely throws me and gets me thinking. OK, so I’m analysing this more than a lot of people would ever do, but the difference between a writer and someone who doesn’t care for writing isn’t so severe, I don’t think. The only real difference is that a writer will be able to work out why a comma’s usage is wrong, whereas a reader will struggle with it, and this confusion may lead to their mood changing, and their opinion of the work/author being tainted. This is absolutely what nobody wants to happen — it could mean somebody putting down your book. Unless that’s your plan and you’re being smart and messing with the reader’s head. In which case, you had better be aware what you are doing!

Novel writing: when deciding what novel to write feels TOTALLY impossible

Sometimes, when I just can’t decide on what to write, I paint

For anyone out there who is right at the beginning of their career as a novelist — so early in their career, in fact, that at this point in time, calling it something so defined and formal as a career seems distinctly optimistic and in no small way stupid — deciding which kind of novel to write is quite possibly the biggest dilemma of them all. In my experience, those unfamiliar with this spectacle of hard-working bum-numbing slavery — those who, through no fault of their own, can only speculate on what writing a novel must be like — think that the physical act of writing is the hardest part, and that the decision to write the novel in question is formed somewhat easily from some grand idea which has been long in the making; an idea which just seems right somehow…in the same way that we all pick up a good book and find outselves entirely immersed, as if this novel could only have been written in this very specific way by this one author. (Ahhh, the romance of it all.) Yet the late nights, the early mornings, the totally all-encompassing nature of it all and the way it takes over every single aspect of your life, including sleep, are, for me, nothing in comparison to the gut-wrenchingly difficult process of choosing one novel idea over another. It’s a cruel and necessary game that plays out for all of us writers, and the simple fact is that it doesn’t ever get any easier, because the rules are always changing and we’re always looking to create something better. The problem, I suppose, is that while you are writing one novel — that book which to begin with seemed so right, so your own making — your mind is also, by turns, working in another direction towards a different novel idea that very badly wants to make itself known. And this is where the danger comes in. For what it is worth, here are my tips for sticking and deciding upon one idea and all other related matters.

1) Can’t decide which idea you want to write about? In the past, when I have been in this situation and forced it — become so fed-up with the procrastination of it all that I have found myself frantically writing a novel, any novel, just so it could be done and I could move on — the result has been at times OK, at times awful. A forced novel — that is to say, a novel which is born of desperation to put words on paper and fulfill the outline of an idea which is more mechanics than emotion — is a bad novel which will likely go nowhere. Whatever you want to write, a burning ambition to complete the project is the only common thread that links us all. Write that novel because you simply must do it. Write it because whenever you should be doing something else, the idea plays on your mind and just won’t leave you the hell alone.

2) A novel is not a loose outline of events without an ending, or a concept floating loosely between copycatting someone else’s work and two forged ideas. Never forge ideas together — what do I mean? I mean don’t take two or more novel ideas you have had and chuck them together as one, pretending that this might somehow work. Just because there is a beginning, middle and an end, does not mean that those ends go well in company of one another. Keep on point and you’ll be right.

3) Stop worrying about how people will react to the idea of your novel, and don’t be alarmed if you don’t see that idea already in print somewhere on Amazon. While it’s always good to know that there is a similar work of fiction out there — something of familiarity is welcome in such a lonely pursuit as this one — the fact that there isn’t can be a special, magical thing. It could mean you have stumbled across a concept which is unlike most and therefore impressive! Always remember that at some point in history, an idea was revolutionary and new and that author — think Nabokov’s masterpiece Lolita — was condemned for creating what is now considered a masterpiece. Bravery does pay, so forget what others are saying and doing, because that’s a waste of time. If you believe in your concept and believe you can make it reality, then you can. There is no doubt about that. Words are oganic, and it can be done.

Nabokov

4) What are your strengths? I love reading thrillers. The Bourne Identity by the now deceased Robert Ludlum is a classic in my opinion. Yet, much as I adore reading this book and others like it — I just finished Drive by James Sallis which was different but similarly fascinating in form — I know that my strengths do not lie in the thriller-writing field. What a pain, would be so much easier if they did. The reason why: I find it difficult to be serious for that long, and my job as a freelance writer already commands enough of my time to be spent seriously. The up-shot of this is that after work I am glad to write in a way which feels completely unshackled. So, if you enjoy writing humourism, write comedy, or something with a comedic thread. If you enjoy writing romance and you are a man, do not be put off. If I were you, I’d just write whatever you enjoy doing and say bollocks to everyone else. You’re going to be spending one hell of a lot of time doing this, remember, so you want that raw enthusiasm to be present always. More importantly, if you ever expect a reader to pay for your work and spend many hours voraciously consuming it, you have a moral and intellectual obligation to them to produce work which is a direct representation of your most natural abilities.

5) Be careful about inserting religion, your own moral values and ideas into your novel: for me, this is a critical point. As far as I am concerned, it doesn’t matter if you are religious or not, what you believe or don’t believe, or what you think is great about the world. Just remember that your characters should — I think — begin life as people in their own right. This is not a crusade. They should develop their own voice, their own moral out-look in life and be capable of being in direct disagreement with everything you stand for. If you only ever write characters which feel like you and act like you do, how do you expect them to outgrow your own limitations and expand into something big, scary and influential to the reader? If writing about characters who are so different from you feels wrong or immoral, then perhaps this is the wrong genre to be writing in?

If you do have a cause to further, though — you want to write about something to further awareness, rather than to ram your ideas down the reader’s throat — go ahead. Write about what matters to you. I know I did with my debut novel, and it was the best decision I have ever made.

6) This could go on all day, but I will end here on this important point: sometimes, just sometimes, you will be in a strange mental place where 3 or 4 or 5 ideas all seem like the right novels to write at this very moment. This is, quite possibly, the cruelest game for the intellectual spirit to play, and it may just mean that yes…you are cursed: you must write all these novels one after another. Bummer. Bigggggg bummer. But, oh well, things could be worse. At least you have ideas. Right?

14 novel writing lessons you simply cannot ignore

It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting down to write your very first novel, or your tenth. Here are a few things I always tell myself — purely my opinion, so I’ll let you decide if they are relevant or not. Who knows, maybe they will come in handy for you:

1) If you think there are no real rules for writing novels and forming structure, you’re wrong: there are hundreds of right ways and wrong ways to do things, but you don’t need to know them all — all you need to know is what works for you. Read a lot, read as much as you can, because if you’re not reading what’s been created before you, you’re not going to increase your knowledge to the level at which you can explode that knowledge, expand on it and produce something genuinely worthwhile that the world really needs.

2) Words are organic. They are just words. Stop getting attached to words, it’s ridiculous. Losing 100 pages of your debut novel may be the best thing that can ever happen to you. You’ll fight to get it back, and if you make it past that then you can do anything. N-E-THING.

3) Write novels, spend months slaving, then never, ever look at them again. It’s not a waste. Not every single book you write, at least in the very beginning, will be worthwhile. Just because you wrote something doesn’t mean that you should publish it. Publish a novel that you know in your heart isn’t good enough, and you’re only making the already tough journey harder than it needs to be. Above all, trust yourself.

4) Don’t just read what you love to write. Reading different genres allows you to understand the methods and madness intrinsic to every type of writing. Romance books will teach you how to tackle emotion, while thrillers will teach you speed, pacing and tight sentences. Read literary fiction and you’ll soon learn what you can and cannot get away with, experimentally speaking. Read non-fiction: it is essential, and once you’ve absorbed enough of it you’ll be able to merge the boundaries between what’s real and what’s not in a way that would have been impossible before. Your words won’t just jump off the page, they’ll grab your reader round the throat and make their heart bloody race.

5) Stop reading over your first draft over and over again. It is nothing less than a waste and, worse, mental torture that will dog you of inspiration and threaten to destroy the entire process. Once you have written your novel, leave it and don’t touch it, don’t even look at it for at least 2 months. Maybe more. Zadie Smith — author of the wildly successful White Teeth and absolutely stunning On Beauty — once said that you should leave your novel years before you look at it again. I tend to agree, although I may get run over tomorrow, so I prefer to leave it a minimum of 2 months.

6) Be prepared for people to despise your work. Be prepared for reason-less hate and constant criticism about everything you’re trying to convey. Polarizing opinion can be great. Fuck it, it doesn’t matter anyway. Every single new idea that was ever produced began life as something which someone, somewhere, despised. New ideas are always hated: they are the uncomfortable notions of progress and should be championed. Without them, you’re just following others. Think about it: what’s more disgusting, refusing to move your bag so someone else can sit next to you on the train, or writing a novel which makes people really think and consider?

7) People will tell you You can’t write a novel in a few weeks, it takes years. That’s nonsense born out of total ignorance, pure and simple. Providing you have a concept, or the seed of an idea, you can write a book as fast as you can put words down. Even if you don’t: remember, there are no rules.

8) It’s OK to keep changing your mind and going from one idea to the other and back again. This IS healthy. It may not feel like it, and your creative writing teacher may find it unnatural, but your mind is turning the idea over and over, round and round, and that is natural. Waiting and considering many ideas allows the most important ones to rise to the top. Don’t fight this process, and if you’re too set on an idea then maybe it’s too easy. If you’re not challenged when writing, what will your readership think?

9) Swearing is OK, as long as the words hold purpose. Swear words have been part of literature since whenever that start was. A good writer will use them correctly, lending each one the attribute the power it deserves. A good writer will also use them incorrectly and somehow make it work.

10) Tense, rules about grammar, and everything you read in some generic internet article can be ignored — if you know why you are ignoring them.

11) If you want to write a book, you must begin sometime. If you enjoy writing, do it. If you don’t, then go and do something else instead.

12) Tackle big, scary, frightening ideas. Don’t ever not write something because you think that someone might be offended.

13) You must allow others to read your work.

14) Keep calm. The words will come, just get the ideas in your head straight first: what are you trying to say?

 

The Number 3 Mystery Book: Read the first two chapters and make sure you don’t think it’s total crap. Yes, I’m not JUST a bearded face!

It’s been 9 months or so since I self-published my first novel, and what a journey so far. I won’t lie, it was slow in the beginning, but as the book has picked up support and love and I printed paperbacks, a small but cult following has begun to emerge — along with amazing reviews and mad-crazy-following support on Twitter. Just today Disability Cornwall sent me their new issue, which features the book on an entire page (click the link to subscribe and read online if you like). God I must sound like such a bighead, but still, it’s exciting to know that my novel, inspired greatly by Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time wasn’t a total waste of my writing time. Scroll down to read the sample chapters or read this next bit. AND please excuse the stupid formatting for the chapter titles below…this is NOT how it looks in the book, it’s just WordPress being childish.

BUT

I HATE HATE HATE Amazon’s Look Inside feature. Just thinking about it makes me feel a little bit sick. Look inside what, exactly? A bag in the summer filled with smelly old skid-marked pants? OOOooooOOOOh, YES PLEASE AMAZON! Really…for such an enormous company, Amazon really haven’t got the first bloody clue about how to show potential readers a sample of what they might expect. You spend a year-and-a-half slaving over your debut novel, then you upload it and find that the first impression of it looks completely crap…the text running into the next paragraph at every opportunity, the whole thing thrown together to form nothing less than a monstrosity…

Which is why I have invented, as of fifteen-minutes ago, Chris’s LOOK AT THIS, YOU CAN ACTUALLY READ IT. Revolutionary, right? It’s basically a sample of The Number 3 Mystery Book as it actually appears (although the paperback version is formatted so the chapter headings begin on new pages) because I realised tonight that although I do have some novel samples elsewhere on this blog, I had never made a sample accessible on the front page. Well done Chris, you’re a little bit thick.

At least I didn’t include a picture of the book. I mean, it isn’t as if you could really miss it…

NEW Paperbacks are back in stock and Amazon UK and US are where you need to go for the digital copy. If you’re one of those really nose people then you can even find a 5 star review here. Want to see how the book cover art evolved into the end result? Then you can go here. Just please don’t Look Inside…

Chapter 1: Full-On Mega Disbelief

I was waiting in the dark for the door to open and it was very late. Imagine a really hungry, really frustrated short-necked Giraffe that has finally spotted a gang of leaves low enough for him to eat and this is precisely how excited I was. So much had just happened and all I kept thinking was I don’t believe it I don’t believe it I don’t believe it but wait…I DO believe it! and it needed to be told to someone quickly before the amazingness of the moment wore off, which would be a tragedy for humankind and the world as we know it. That someone was Mr Grundy. Since the place where my fantastic discovery had happened was owned by him, it was only right that he was that very lucky person.

“Mr Grundy!” I said, soon as I sensed motion and a bitter old man’s face appearing in the door-way. “You’ve got to hear my amazing stor-”

He put his hand up and a sort of Grundy-grunt came out of his mouth: wild boar with his snout out in the forest, I thought. Farmers had their very own code of unique snouty grunts.

“But Mr Grundy,” I said again, but whispering it this time to make me sound like listening was the only option for the old man to take. “Seriously, you don’t understa-”

He put his other hand up and clapped them together hard, his head all a-shaking. I honestly think that if he could have levitated on his big old bum in the air, he’d have put both his feet up to silence me too.

Mr Grundy then began a typical Grundy speech and no matter how hard I tried to interrupt him to talk about my discovery, I failed. The main thing he was saying was that he was not amused by me knocking on his door late at night. He is a farmer and Mrs Grundy is a farmer’s wife, so being not amused is often the case for both him and her, seeing as it’s always raining and he spends so much time outside working very hard for not very much money while everyone else sits at computers and earns loads of money without barely even needing to do more than just hit three buttons and lean back with eyes half closed and a coffee on the desk. Mr Grundy says that it is “a sick joke on all the hard-working farmers of the world that life is like this.” Also, they are both ages and ages old, which only make them even worse. You could say Mr Grundy is an expert-professional at being not amused. He is even better at being grumpy.

The second thing he said to me after opening the door in his tractor-pattern slippers was “Look Barney, it’s bloody late, it’s past midnight, what the hell do you think you are playing at?” To display his not-amusement so I could absolutely not miss it he put a lot of effort into making a big wrinkly face, or what Wonky my best friend once called “looks like an actual scrotum.”

I had been rehearsing this next bit since leaving the pond a few minutes before, so I said: “I’m sorry but I had to come right now Mr Grundy, I simply had no choice. I am also not amused, but that’s the way things go at the cutting-edge. It’s really not my fault, I am but a slave to the cutting edge and that’s just the way it has to be.”

He was still just staring straight at me. “The cutting edge again,” he said, “I’m up again at 5am tomorrow. Get to the point fast, boy.”

I continued: “well the point is this, Mr Grundy. I am still half terrified out of my wits from what I saw lurking in your pond earlier today, after I got home from school.”

“Lurking? Earlier today?” As Mr Grundy’s eyes focussed his eyebrows became like a big black bird diving straight at me. “You weren’t there at the pond just now were you? Because you’d better bloody well not have been,” he said, crossing his leathery hairy arms. “If I’ve told you once then I’ve told you a hundred flippin’ times boy…”

I was prepared for him saying this, I couldn’t very well not be the amount he’d warned me never to go to the pond at night, and so I said, “of course not Mr Grundy, what do you think I am? This was earlier today like I told you before.”

“I think I had better not answer that first part,” he replied, shaking his head.

I continued with my routine like I had cunningly worked it out. “Oh, I know the perils of the anti-heron fence, Mr Grundy,” I said. “And I know how forbidden going to the pond late at night is. I can assure you I did not do it and will never do it, not as long as I have hairs on my head, and I reckon that should be for at least twenty more years yet.”

Under his moustache I thought I could see Mr Grundy making a half smile. He followed this up with a deadly serious sigh what made his crops probably fear for their lives when they saw Mr Grundy and his scary tractor coming. “Good, good. And very glad to hear it. Just remember that the pond is no place to be at night Barney, not for anyone, especially not a thirteen year-old boy.”

“No way Mr Grundy, definitely not. I’ll never forget it for as long as I live. And I’m like an especially clever Elephant in the memorising respect.”

Inside my head where it was safe I did a big jump in the air and congratulated myself for lying really well and appearing totally believable.

Mr Grundy pointed his finger at me and I thought that dressing gown is ten generations of farmers old and you really should get a new one. “I bet if your dad knew you were out now he’d serve you a damn good hiding. I know I would if you were my son. Mark my words on that one, Barney.”

“Probably he would, but he’s not here as per usual,” I said. “Anyway Mr Grundy, few people,” I said with pride, “are as lucky as you are, and that makes you extremely privileged, you know.”

“Well, I should be thankful then,” said Mr Grundy. “Silly me…”

Exactly. This is the real thing what I’m talking about. This is the big-time. I’m sure you understand what I’m saying Mr Grundy. We have things to discuss. Like what exactly I saw in your pond much earlier today.”

“I think I get the picture, Barney.”

I could see on the clock in the hall that the time now was just before one am. It was very late, yes, but lateness was a small price to pay for knowing such classified information. I could see Mr Grundy was beginning to realise this too, and it was about flippin’ time. “Now look here,” he said, “much as I love being woken up in the dead of night to hear all about the cutting-edge, please just go home Barney.” And his moustache did a funny farmer’s wiggle. “Come and tell me about all this once I’ve had some sodding sleep, and let’s not be making this kind of thing a habit, right? Some of us have got fields to harvest and weather to curse.”

I said, “sorry and yes. Yes I most certainly will do that. You have my absolute word. And I may be only thirteen years old Mr Grundy but-”

“You’re a boy of your word.”

“Precisely.”

He sighed. “Yes lad, I thought you might be.”

I was about to leave, but before he could close the door and I could step away, Mrs Grundy and her big old massive ankles shuffled up behind Mr Grundy asking about what The Devil is going on here and such like. I don’t like it when people mention the Antichrist and look directly at me as though I might have seen him in the last few days and might be able to answer on his behalf. I already get teased at school with enough names for having such a strange-looking-massive-face and so I have a habit of “taking these things to heart.” Mum tells me this is perfectly understandable considering how things are for me but that I shouldn’t let it worry me because I am normal like everyone else even if I am affected by an unfortunate disease like the Elephant Man had (it isn’t actually Elephantiasis though, it’s called Cherubism. Cherubism makes you look strange, hurts your eyes and it really isn’t what you want when you’re a boy or anyone, because it messes up your teeth quite bad).

Mr Grundy whispered “he’s just going, love,” to Mrs Grundy. He looked at me with one stare-ey eye. “Aren’t you now, Barney.”

But she always did ignore him.

“Well hello Barney, it’s just gone one in the morning,” said Mrs Grundy, all dressing-gowned up, eyes much more open now. She shot Mr Grundy a look of womanly doom that I’m sure has killed many a weaker man in similar circumstances and then she crossed her arms across her big wobbly mountain-range of a chest. “Dear-dear, when our lad was your age…how old are you now Barney?”

“Thirteen Mrs Grundy,” I told her. “But getting older all the time.”

She leaned forward and spoke quietly just to me, which seemed to annoy the bitter old farmer even more. “…You don’t say…well, I used to put mine over my knee and spank his bottom for lesser crimes than this. What’s going on here at one a clock in the morning? You know damn well it’s much too late to be knocking on our door Barney Delaney. Whatever would your dad say if he knew you were here?”

I didn’t want to think about dad again so soon, so instead I thought of something else: I had always wondered why Mrs Grundy’s arms had so much flappy skin on the under-sides. Here was the answer at last: she had done way too much bottom spanking and it had made the flesh go all stretchy and elastic. Obvious really.

I said “I do know damn well Mrs Grundy, but I was acting out of fascination and extreme desperation and those two things when you put them together are greater than the most powerful under-sea dynamite, Mrs Grundy. What can I say, that’s what it’s like on the cutting-edge sometimes. You just have to deal with these things when they happen.”

They looked at one another and back at me and Mrs Grundy said, “If you say so, dear.”

“And I do,” I said, thinking again about the potential of my discovery. “And if anyone would know then I would.”

There was a small pause where new creases appeared on their faces and they had a kind of conversation which I was too young to join in with.

“Well sod this, I’m going to bed,” Mr Grundy said. “This is all very good and well but bugger off with you Barney. Go home before you get in any more trouble. And never go near the pond at night. Are we clear as muck on that?”

Language,” said Mrs Grundy, and she poked him hard with her elbow.

Mr Grundy gave her a right old dirty look and I thought marriage, forget it!

“He doesn’t mean it Barney-”

“Don’t I? I think you’ll find I bloomin’-”

Mrs Grundy put her hand on his cheek and pulled the skin and it was like old bubble-gum. “He’s just a bitter old farmer from a long line of bitter farmers, is all. But of course he’s right, you’re never to go to the pond at night. You can’t see what you’re doing around there and besides that, it’s not safe.”

“Consider me gone,” I said, “Consider I was never here at all.”

“I should be so lucky.”

For that, Mr Grundy got a look of razor-sharp-woman’s-daggers, and I wondered how much more an old bitter man could take.

“Do excuse his swearing,” Mrs Grundy said, slowly shutting the door. “And mind you don’t pick any of it up, won’t you?”

I said he was excused and I had barely even heard it, and as the door finally closed I said, just to myself, that I would banish the swearing from my mind like I did whenever Wonky opened her big mouth and had her way with her wicked opinions.

So I buggered off with me like I was told: what you need to know about Mr Grundy is that once he got his thumb caught in some farming machinery and it got ripped off quicker than quick and so when he says don’t do something he really does mean business and you should not mess with him. You should do as he says, always, no exceptions.

Unless it is very important, like it was with my discovery. In which case it’s for the good of Science that you ignore the rules and make your own up.

Chapter 2: That Thing

I Could Never Forget

“I am Barney and I am a thirteen year-old Cryptozoologist. Later you shall meet ‘Wonky’ whose real name is actually Jenny. She is my best friend and also the second most major character in this book. This what you hold in your hands here is a tale of epic discovery and excitement where things can and do go wrong and life is never the same again as me and my friend Wonky know it. And I’ll tell you for why, but you will need to buy this book to find out more, so there!”

When all these many words become a book then this is what I shall write in the ‘blurb’ on the back cover to ‘draw people in’ and make it a ‘page turner.’ They will be powerless to resist! I should also warn you now that you need to be a bit tough to read my book, because like in all good books, it’s a ‘rollercoaster of emotions’ and it isn’t always a time for smiling. As my dad would say when he’s in one of his massive great stinkers: “I’m being deadly serious. No mucking about!”

But now I realise that it is only Chapter 2 and I have already made a really big mistake of novel writing. One which would have Mr Novel (or whoever invented novels) banging on his coffin and screaming If I turn in my grave anymore I’m going to be sick!

In my excitement, you see, I totally forgot to tell you what my discovery was and why I was in such a rush to see Mr and Mrs Grundy so late at night. Woops. I am correcting this now otherwise it will not be a good book, it will be a very confusing book.

What happened before I knocked on the Grundy’s front door…

I won’t ever forget it. Like I said before, it was night-time, and I was at the big pond at the end of my road doing two things what Mr Grundy had told me many times not to do. I was 1) at the pond at night-time which was completely criminally forbidden and I was 2) standing dangerously close to the electric anti-heron fence what I had never seen kill any heron but I knew was highly ferocious (Mrs Grundy said that one time, a very unfortunate pigeon had landed backside-first on it, and probably his pigeony friends wouldn’t ever let him forget for as long as he flew, because pigeons had quite a good memory actually). That was when the incredible event which would change my life forever happened: a flash of silver rose up out of the water in the middle of the pond…and disappeared again quick as a flash, leaving only a few bubbles, making a proper Plop! as it went (like what you’d get if you had massive sky-scraper arms and held an elephant over the water and it did one almighty poo). I couldn’t even speak I was so stunned. In all the times I had secretly and illegally been to the Grundy’s pond at night I had never seen anything like this. It was the kind of thing to make even the wildest of dreams jealous and say: “I wish I’d have thought of that!”

Instantly and without needing to think about it anymore than you do walking along in a straight line or picking a bogey and flicking it at the back of someone’s head in class I knew that here was a creature that I had not seen and nobody in the world had ever laid their eyes upon either. What’s more, I knew that I had not imagined it and it was concrete fact and really had happened because a) it takes nearly ten minutes to walk around the pond and the entire thing was affected by ripples and b) If Mr Grundy or somebody in the world had seen this incredible creature then Mr Grundy’s pond would not be the peaceful place it always is, oh no. Why not? Well, because there would be reporters from National Geographic and people with cameras and crowds of screaming people, lots of them. My dad would call something like that a Media Circus. And I’ll tell you something for free: Media Circus’s do not happen in places like where we live, in this sleepy village outside of the university city of Cambridge where all the posh professors do their boring academic studying and live to be one-thousand years old. There once was a minor Media Circus a few years back when people first noticed there was something odd about the way my face looks compared to other people, but since then it has been very quiet on the Media Circus’s front and nowadays people mostly leave me alone to get on with my fascinating Cryptozoology business. This is lucky for me because large unidentified animals are often scared off by more than a couple of human beings (which is a fact: read any Cryptozoology book if you don’t believe me).

And this event? This was it for me. What I had been waiting for my whole thirteen years of life: an unidentified animal which I could identify. One which I could name! My whole life I’d been thinking I’d have to trek out to the Amazon rainforests or the Congo to find my mysterious creature, and here it was, at the end of my road in the pond I’d walked past every day!

I knew at that moment, as I stood there in the dark all rigid, that my dreams would now be full of Plop! and silvery-pinkish flash and probably not much else for a long time to come.

If you’re not sweating and feeling a bit sick with anticipation reading my account then you really should go and see a Doctor.

Once I had got my nerves back I punched myself hard enough in the face to wake myself up, just in case this was all a dream (everyone knows that pinching alone won’t do it). It was no dream. I was still standing in the darkness and I had not woken up and I was mega rigid.

Before I continue with what happened next, after the ripples had finally vanished, I should really tell you about precisely how terrified I was when the monster silvery fish-thing appeared. It’s very important to capture that, I think. I call it a fish-thing because it looked like a fish but was much too big to be any kind of normal live-in-a-pond kind of fish. It was the size of something much bigger, at least as big as Mr Grundy’s one-man boat, and the kind of thing you see on TV and say: “well that can’t be real, I bet that’s all computer graphics.”

I do not want to ‘go silly’ with describing my fear of the fish-thing, as my mum might say, so I am going to assume that most everyone who reads this book understand what big-fear is like and just how awful it can be when it strikes you down quick and hard without warning. After all, you’re a reader, so there’s a good chance you’re not thick. But for everyone who doesn’t know what big-fear is like, or who is a bit thick – because statistics say there has to be some, and you can always trust in them statistics – I have devised a way for you to understand it perfectly. The following demonstrates big-fear.

Still big fear…

Big fear not even close to being shown how scary it is…

Here I am. Now, imagine that all the masses of white space between the last paragraph and the start of this paragraph symbolises big-fear, and that the space between each of these words here is normal everyday fear that just makes you jump a bit (a small spider creeping out from under the bin, for example). Now I think you get a much better idea of the terror of what happened inside me at that precise moment when I saw the fish-thing. Now we can move on.

And before you ask, Yes, I was certain that Mr Grundy knew nothing of the mysterious fish-thing, which meant that Mrs Grundy couldn’t know either, of course, because she never came out to the pond, and she did not like fish. Mr Grundy is a farmer and very straightforward and he does not and never has had a habit of lying or keeping things of this massiveness a secret.

So, I was still standing there with what felt like concrete in my veins. I know that the best way to begin a good book is not imagining a thirteen year-old boy standing in one place staring out at a pond in the night with concrete in his veins, but I can’t change the facts, can I? This was how it was.

I tried to move. It did not work well, mainly because my eyes were being selfish and wanted only to stare out without being made to look at other things. Once the big-fear had worn off a bit I decided to stand still three feet to the right of where I had been and do my thinking calmly like that, with my arms crossed tight, as I find is best for the utmost concentration to happen smoothly. There was another reason for standing still too, and if you’re a Cryptozoologist then you’ll have already worked this out ages ago and be feeling really smug. It was to become part of the pond, like a tree or a bush or something like that. If the fish-thing decided it wanted to make another appearance then it would have no idea there was one of them odd pink creatures watching.

So I waited a bit more.

Disappointingly, but as often happens to you when you are at the cutting edge of rebel science, the fish-thing did not make another appearance in the minutes after that. The pond was calm again like there had never been the Plop! and I checked over every bit of it but there were only small bubbles from small fish and the occasional Riiiiibet! from a frog that must have known much more than me. I waited for a full ten minutes to give the fish-thing time to make its enormous mind up and then I left to tell Mr Grundy about this most spectacular happening, reminding myself that I was absolutely forbidden at the pond after dark. Wait a moment, actually, that what I just said was a bit of a white lie: I didn’t leave immediately, because that would have been really unprofessional Cryptozoological madness. What really happened was I started to walk away and then I remembered myself: I hid behind a bush and then I came back to exactly where I had been, very slowly, creeping on the dry grass on all fours like an animal would do if it wanted to surprise its pray and rip its throat out. The fish-thing was still not there, but it could have been, why not? The fish-thing might be a sneak and of course it would want to remain a secret because it had this long and to not be a secret any more when you had been such a huge success of one would not be good at all for the self-esteem. It could be very depressing for any creature of any size, with or without fins, couldn’t it?

Once I had got almost to Mr and Mrs Grundy’s house, which is located bang smack next to the pond behind a hedge, I crept back all the way again for a second time, but I was still all alone in the dark. And that was when I said enough is enough and properly went to Mr and Mrs Grundy’s.

AND once again I am going to make it easy for you! Paperbacks here and Amazon UK here, Amazon US here. Fancy reading a review? You’ll find it here.

To see my guest blog on Penelope Fletcher’s blog, you only need click here…or head on over to Disability Cornwall to see their feature on the book (you’ll need to subscribe first).

The Number 3 Mystery Book — buy your paperback now

Black and white ex-racing greyhound Jojo loves The Number 3 Mystery Book so much, she'll frequently spend hours in her doggy-den, mulling over the captivating storyline. In this photo, her morose expression conveys her sheer inability to fathom why anyone else wouldn't want to read it too. (In their doggy-den or otherwise.)

Last week, finally, it happened: a very disgruntled post-man — complete with small red van, like the demonic real-life becoming of postman Pat — turned up at the door holding a massive box; the kind of box which surely must be urban legend in the post-office, and which post-men and women alike no doubt spend their whole lives fearing they might ond day get lumbered with. I quickly recovered from the shock of this event FINALLY happening and learned why he was so disgruntled: the box weighed an absolute ton — in it, 100 paperbacks of my debut novel (which is 14.5cm x 20.5cm and a perfect-bound laminated paperback, just like you see in the shops). If you haven’t already, read the synopsis and see reviews here, where you can also buy the digital version.

The paperback cover has smaller title writing, as seen in the photo above with Jojo posing

And it’s about time this self-publishing venture of mine really kicked in. 3 months ago I made the very brave statement that “in 3 weeks my books should be available in paperback.” A total impossibility as it turned out; first there was the formatting to do, and then there were graphics to sort out. Aside from that, a human-being must also sleep…still, let’s not dwell on that point, it’s a time for being smug and it won’t come again for a while, that much is certain. Instead, let me tell you how you can get your hands on a copy and other important details. Then you can be smug, too. Don’t say I never give you anything.

INDEX

* Why you should buy this first-run, limited-edition book

* Can I have a signed copy?

* OK Chris, you’ve broken me. I live in the UK, how do I pay?

* Oh dear…but Chris, I am a luddite…does that mean I have to wait until either someone

leaves it on the train or it ends up in a library or a bin?

* But Chris, my problem is I don’t live in the UK. It’s the end of the world!

And just when I thought everything in my life was going right…

* …Is there a web-site for the book? I’m intrigued and would like to know more

* Links to more about the book

* Thanks

Why you should buy this first-run, limited-edition book

Because if you don’t you are making the biggest mistake of your life, of course. But aside from that, and the fact that if you don’t buy it your children won’t ever discover it in the book-shelf — which would mean them missing out on a vital part of English culture, which would be all your fault! — this first edition might one day be worth something. I know, I’m getting carried away here, but let’s say I make the big-time, or the semi-big-time, or just the semi-semi big-time, right? Or I get involved in a road-rage incident with the Pope or something and that gets me on This Morning. Well, in that case these might become valuable. Or at least sought after. It’s all very good and well not buying one now, but don’t come crying to me when you need to pay that last thirty grand on your mortgage in twenty years’ time!

Can I have a signed copy?

Yes! And that’s not me saying that out of vanity. Lots of people have already asked for this — without me even mentioning it — and although my right hand is now almost perpetually spasmed from all the signing, I’m sure I can make an exception for you.

OK Chris, you’ve broken me. I live in the UK, how do I pay?

Here’s how you do it: if you have a Paypal account then it couldn’t be simpler. Simply sign in and click the Send Money button as depicted below:

Once you’ve done that, you get this:

As you can see, now you are here. From this point on it’s very simple: enter the amount of £9.50 (£2.50 of that is for UK postage and packaging — the book on its own cosst £7.50) and the email address chrispink49@googlemail.com and hit Continue.

And I repeat, £9.50 includes postage and packaging, so you’re not going to get stung for anymore, I assure you.

On the next screen you’ll have the option of adding a message in the box provided. If you would like me to write something in the front of the book, no matter how ridiculous or formal — excluding death-threats or malicious notes like  “Here’s a book for you. YOUR DUMPED!” — write the exact words in this box and I will get it done. It is a promise.

AND I DO NEED YOUR ADDRESS! so if your Paypal account doesn’t automatically send this, be sure to include this in the message box as well.

Oh dear…but Chris, I am a luddite…does that mean I have to wait until either someone

leaves it on the train or it ends up in a library or a bin?

Sorry, yes.

Only messing! Of course not, as long as you never ever again suggest it might end up in the bin — that really wasn’t very nice. So yes, I also accept cheques too. Please email me if you would like my address, and I will tell you and only you it. You have to be careful, you know. That bloke Dom off of Cowboy Builders is always going on about it.

But Chris, my problem is I don’t live in the UK. It’s the end of the world!

And just when I thought everything in my life was going right…

Seriously…calm down. It’ll be OK. If you don’t live in the UK, you need to email me and tell me where you live. Then I can calculate the postage costs and we can go from there. There, isn’t that better? (And don’t panic, the postage costs are reasonable. Examples below.)

US: £5.40 / $8.40

Germany: £3.40 / Euro 3.90

France: £3.40 / Euro 3.90

It is. Just one last thing…

Isn’t there always…

…Is there a web-site for the book? I’m intrigued and would like to know more

Ah, in that case I forgive you. There IS a web-site for the book, actually — it’ll be taking all the money, which will be nice — but sadly, seeing as I lack any technical computer skills whatsoever, I am still trying my best to work out how to upload the damn bloody thing. As soon as it is up, I will post an update here.

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Links to more about the book

All Number 3 related book things are on this blog here

Feature here on Fiction Fierce

See the synopsis here

Thanks

One last thing: thanks again to the many amazing people who helped make my first novel a reality. It wasn’t an easy journey, but people like Phil Thomas, Robin Bright, Jack McCourt and Yasmin Selena — whose brand-new blog about writing and short stories is up here and you really ought to read it — made it a hell of a lot easier than it might have been otherwise. I couldn’t have done it without any of these people, not to mention the many great friends who are showing support on Facebook and Twitter right now. You’re all most excellent.

Lastly, as you know, there are only 100 copies of this first edition in existence. I’m reserving copies for quite a few people, but they can’t be held forever, so the sooner they are paid for the sooner they can be despatched.

Thanks for reading and hope to hear from you soon,

If you have any other pressing questions, feel free to contact me at: chrispink49@googlemail.com

Chris