No More Mr Nice Guy

A recent four star review of Shattered Reflections on Amazon said that although a lot of the characters were not nice this made it a better story. This review pleased me as it suggested that he had understood what I was trying to do. Making characters likeable is not something I have ever been concerned about.

It is certainly true thatShattered_Reflection_Cover_for_Kindle even the more appealing characters in Shattered Reflections have a nastier side. Jamie Hartnell, one of the main characters, begins the novel as a studious, sensible character. If he had remained that way throughout the novel, he would have been pretty one dimensional and no one would have cared about him. However, when it is discovered at school that he is gay and his so-called friend George starts to make his life a misery, I felt it was realistic to show the changes in his personality as he became more defensive and so very angry. His relationship with his mother also deteriorates, something he feels particularly angry about. He could not remain the same, no one could go through that and still be the same person.

At the same time, I do not believe that having characters that are irredeemably evil is any better or any less one dimensional. George could be seen as the villain of the piece but he was struggling with issues of his own relating to his sexuality and I wanted to make it apparent that this was the reason for his violence. Even the most terrible of characters – Patrick Bateman springs to mind – have to have something to keep the reader interested. For example, while obviously Bateman is not likeable, it is possible to feel concern for him and understand that he is trapped in a system that alienates people so much that they consider murder the only way they can be noticed.

Finally, I wanted to write a novel that was quite psychological and while it is written in third person, it is always from the various characters’ points of view. I think that if you could genuinely see inside other people’s heads you would find that most people have a less than likeable side. Most of us think things that we would never share and part of being a nice person is not sharing them with others. However, when you are writing from a character’s point of view, you cannot afford to leave such thoughts out. It would be dishonest and you would be left with those nice, one-dimensional characters that make for such bad fiction.

 

So I can call myself a writer now….

So it is out in the open now. I have written a novel and it is out on Amazon. A wider circle of people now know. I can safely say to be people that I am a writer. They can ask that question and I can say ‘Oh, a novel.’ Previously, I always avoided using the word writer. Even though every spare second was spent writing. Anyway, I had an real job. And that was what I gave as my occupation if anyone new asked. It would have been pretentious to use the word writer before this point. And a little embarrassing. I’m not sure why I thought that I needed the solid proof of being published but otherwise, I think, it would have seemed a little too much like intellectual masturbation.

I was always writing though. I think that as I have not previously mentioned it, people think Shattered Reflections appeared fully formed in the months since I have been unemployed. However, this is a work that has been years in the making. Writing sentences, paragraphs whenever I had the chance: on the train to and from work, when I had finished planning lessons, instead of reading in bed at night, while I ate my breakfast. Notebook upon notebook which then had to be typed up, checked and checked again. Without the last months of employment freedom, I would never have managed the final steps but the actual novel was virtually finished by then.

But now I am getting used to saying it. Although still with a small feeling of silliness. As if it is still not quite real. Perhaps because I am not making very much money from it at the minute which means I will have to get a ‘proper job’ when the money starts to get a bit low. And I’m getting used to the ‘oh I’ve always thought I would like to write a book but I wouldn’t know where to start.’ Well, you just start. For me, there was never any choice but to write. I’m not expecting to become a best-seller or make millions. (I mean, it would be nice, obviously but it is not my main motivation.) Regardless of how many copies I sell, how much people like it, I will always write because I have to and because I enjoy it.

Strange Days, Indeed

I wasn’t really sure it could get any stranger. The whole process of publishing Shattered Reflections has seemed surreal. But now that it is out in the world, potentially being read right now, I have to admit that it feels a little bit weird.

Part of it is nerves, undoubtedly. Obviously there has been feedback, checking and what have you before but this is different. For a start, people will actually be paying for it. Previously, it didn’t seem quite real.

Everyone close to me has been superbly supportive. Immediately, people are buying the book, liking my facebook page and I am hugely grateful to them. But it does make me nervous, people I know reading it. It is rude in places, violent in others with a fair bit of bad language thrown in for good measure. I’m not sure I want people who know me to be able to see into the darker reaches of my mind.

My book. My novel. They are exciting words, good words. Not like the words what next. They are frightening, difficult words, no fun words. But they are the ones that I will be working on over the next few weeks.

Shattered Reflections: Now on Amazon

At last. Shattered Reflections is on the shelves in Amazon (Is it still a bookshelf if the bookshop is virtual?) and will be available on Kindle in the next couple of days. It is both exciting and absolutely petrifying. I feel like it is the most amazing and the most stupid thing I have ever done. It’s like letting people into a corner of my mind – a pretty scary place at the best of times.

It is strange for other reasons as well. I will never have to edit or re-read this book. It is finally finished. Over. It is out of my hands. I will never have to think about the characters again and as I have grown quite attached to them over the years, this makes me a little sad. It feels like having a friend move to the other side of the world – I may have occasional contact with them but, in fact, they don’t belong to me any more.  I have to hope that people enjoy reading about them as much as I enjoyed writing about them.

Now I have to decide which of the myriad scribblings which are currently waiting patiently in the draw of my desk I should start work on now. A whole new set of characters to get to know and develop. Of course, there is the matter of promoting this book and I know that this will take up a lot of my time but that seems more like work. Starting a new writing project is definitely a pleasure.

Check out Shattered Reflections on Amazon here

I ain’t thick, don’t treat me as though I am.

As ever, I find myself out of step with fashion. just another craze that is beyond me. So much cultural nonsense that I just don’t get. Following on from X Factor, Big Brother, TOWIE. Why is it that I feel my intelligence is being called into question on a daily basis? And yet, reasonably intelligent people seem to find these things unproblematic. I find myself, more and more, listening to little bands, local bands, watching art-house movies and avoiding the TV all together.

This particular rant started a few weeks ago and has been running through my head since then. It was startled into life again today as I was listening to Jeffrey Lewis’ version of I ain’t thick, its just a trick and suddenly I was feeling all riled up so here it is.

It all started when I decided to read 50 Shades of Grey. I know, I know, what exactly was I expecting. (I know a snobbish part of me was already hoping it would be a bit rubbish as anything that popular should be.) But I wanted to understand exactly why it was so popular and, of course, if you haven’t read it then you can’t really moan about it. So how exactly did this tame tale of an irritating sadist and a pathetic masochist become the publishing phenomenon of the year? It’s hard to know. Are there really that many bored housewives out there? Of course, it’s the hype. I would never have read it otherwise, that is certain. At least I can say I bought it in a charity shop so someone needy at least benefited from my purchase.

I have to admit – and I’m comfortable with my intellectual snob status, so feel free to use that label – that I find the popularity of this book depressing. Just like I find the popularity of TOWIE depressing. The plot is basic and obvious. The characters are annoying stereotypes. However, I have to also admit that the popularity of this book is proof of the power of the reader. Proof of the power of the e-book. All to the good then, when, in the next few days, my book hits the e-shelves.

So on the one hand, 50 Shades of Grey makes me feel more confident about the possibilities for my book, Shattered Reflections. Don’t get me wrong, I do not expect to become the next big thing. I’d rather have lower sales and better reviews anyway. On the other, it has helped to contribute to the snobbishness already surrounding self-publishing. When I was wavering over whether to self publish or not, this is the factor that I found the most difficult to deal with. The idea of no quality control.

Still, ultimately I think it is a cause for celebration that something could be carried along by word of mouth and that there is a whole world of publishing outside of the big six publishers. Just like with music and film, I think I will be investigating it a bit more closely.

What next, that is the question…

Okay, so I have finally finished proof reading Shattered Reflections and I am actually – against all the odds – still quite pleased with it. I think that I have solved all the issues that have been pointed out to me. The proof of that, I guess, will be what the wide world makes of it. A little bit scary that, but while I will continue to write even if no one buys this book, that is not the same as not wanting to be read. Everyone wants to be read. To me, that is more important than the amount of money I might make. Numbers of readers, that is my main concern. So I have to have faith in it. I have to hope that others will love the characters as much as I do, will think it relevant, touching, emotional.

The proofs have gone back and I am glad – while I obviously think Shattered Reflections is good – that I do not have to read it again. I will be happy to say it is finished and put all my notes and work away. It is tempting to keep tinkering but that is more to do with fear of actually putting the work out there than improving the book.

So the big question is what to write next and obviously I have ideas and I have been writing bits and pieces in the meantime. I try to write everyday, even if it is only a couple of hundred words. (The real world, where I have to go back to teaching in September, keeps intruding. How rude!) To that end, I decided to look through the draw where I have kept all my writing. Twenty odd years worth of writing as it turns out. Things that I had forgotten about. It is strange in some ways that Shattered Reflections should be the first thing to be taken to fruition. It certainly isn’t the first thing I’ve written. There are any number of projects here, some more complete than others. The question is whether it is a worthwhile exercise to actually look through it or whether it would just be a huge exercise in procrastination. I mean, could anything I thought when I was 25 still have relevance, still be worthwhile. Its hard to know.

Of course, there is also promotion and marketing to be done for Shattered Reflections when it is becomes available. And I am quite looking forward to the opportunity to work on my website and on learning about all the ways the Internet can help me. I am determined to be pro-active even though it is not really my nature. It has to be.

It is all excitement from here on in, then. For new projects and old. For the future. You’ll be hearing from me soon.

Hello world!

I have never been so nervous. This is the start of something new and I feel the usual amounts of trepidation that you feel when you put a new project into motion – will it work, will I be able to do it, will people care, read, be the least bit bothered about what I have to say. Not only that but I will be allowing people to read what I have written, something that I previously only allowed those the closest to me to do. If the people who might read my work were sat in front of me, armed with red pens in order to correct and change, I could not be more anxious.

I have been writing for years now. In fact, as long as I can remember I have tried to put stories together. It stresses me out when I cannot write and if I’m not actually writing, chances are I am thinking about what I could write. It seems about time to try and actually see if what I have written is good and to get myself some readers.

Having recently become unemployed, I decided that it was time to have another try at getting published. And this time I was determined not to lose heart, give up or become depressed by the rejection letters or – in some ways worse – good but we can’t guarantee a market so no type letters. Publishers are as cash-strapped as anyone at the minute so of course, it is not a good time to be trying to get started. Nevertheless, I was determined that this time something was going to happen.

Things have changed a lot since I last tried to get published about 10 or so years ago. My teaching career had taken off and teaching being what it is, I had little time for writing or to put in the hours it takes to find an agent or a publisher so it all went on the back burner. Now I’m back and there is a whole new way of doing things. I have to admit that I was a little bamboozled. Where to start, what to do first, I’m still not sure if I’m taking the right path. I’d welcome advice from anyone who has been down this road. I look at my computer and I sometime just want to scream “Help” at it. And of course, it just sits there smugly, unaffected by my panic.

Other days are more productive and I have found some sites (www.authonomy.com, for example) where I have posted my writing and where comments have been good and that has helped a lot. I’m learning how to share my work through facebook and twitter and try not to sit anxiously checking for notifications when I have done. Most excitely, I have decided to publish through Createspace and Amazon and am currently waiting for the proofs so I can check them. Excitement and anxiety fight with each other for supremacy on a daily basis but now I have started down the road there is no turning back. Which is good because I am nothing if not a coward.

So, I will be keeping everyone updated of my progress through this blog, both with Shattered Reflections and with new projects that I am working on.