dark am i, yet lovely, a lily among thorns, majestic as stars in procession

dark am i, yet lovely, a lily among thorns, majestic as stars in procession

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

An Author's Perspective

Blogging is easy. Putting entries in a diary is easy. Describing anything enjoyable is easy, like adding jalepenos and a fried egg onto a beefburger, for example. That’s why chefs never shut up, because discussing a passion is easy. Soccer reviews, getting descriptive about music, all easy. Starting a new short story on the spot out of the blue with no mental planning beforehand, however, well, that’s a little trickier. And novel writing…now that’s a challenge.

The novel comes slow, like pulling teeth with an adjustable spanner. There’s no flow to it, no relaxed conversational tone. Here, blogging, one can take risks with dialect and spelling, because Google is essentially one swollen brain dump factory where you expose your soul to strangers so they can collect files of data about you for nothing in return.

Any hard ground-out novel worth its salt should be poetic in parts, with cadence and swagger. It’s all your eggs in the one basket. All your—or the best of—your styles. There’s a time and a place to sling lingo and cockney rhyming slang around, because in a hundred years time who knows where your novel might be and who might be reading it. It may be wise to save the geordie and scouse accents for Twitter and Facebook. Save the text message jargon for the phone company satellites. You wanna be up there among the penguin classics, if you are confident enough and super serious about your craft. That means being as boring and as technical as you can possibly be, judging by the evidence.

Not that super serious is anything to aspire to. The easy-going comic churn-em’-out colloquial popular novelist is more likely to have a longer queue at book signings and a bigger bank account. The bank account helps before you start. A billionaire could self-pub his or her books all over the world in dozens of languages. That in itself would be a heck of a test, even with the finances and power. Imagine how daunting it can seem if you have not even found a publisher yet. If you have not even finished the first draft of your first book. If you are on the breadline without a computer, or printer, or access to a library, because the local bus has been terminated due to cuts, or blown up.

Let’s take a second to be grateful for being able to blog, being able to share nick ideas, and being able to express ourselves. Imagine the bohemian having no voice, and choking on his or her own creativity. As the poet John Siddique says, imagine Thirst without Water.

Take Ian McEwan. He doesn’t hit us with two books a year. He takes his time. There are lengthy gaps between his novels. So you know he thought about it. They come to him, he doesn’t reel them off.

Then there are the fast writers. The word-count obsessives. The commercially-driven touch-typists who keep office hours. They write so many books, even all their titles sound the same.

Credit to both kinds of novelists, but there’s only one kind of book in my book (the hybrid). The commercial thrillers tend to be he jumped over the hill and then he shot his gun and then he jumped over the hill again to do more shooting with his gun, while the others tend to be page after page of thought processes and emotions with nothing much going on.

Clive Barker needs a holla here. When he burst onto the scene, he published three different books of blood on the same day. Massive props to him for that. What a gentleman, giving customers a choice. Or a headache.

Choice is very important. A nice wide range of titles is attractive. But what about those one-hit wonders? You tend to remember their books more. Partly because they are only banging on about one, shoving it into your face every time you turn around. Their hard-sell tactics lodge in your noggin and give you a migraine. Is that the whole point? Is the product almost worthless, apart from its price tag? My name’s this I wrote this it costs this so why aren’t you on Amazon and buying it now. So much in modern day life is forgettable. The trick is having something snag in people’s heads for reasons of merit.

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