Brick walls & Retirement

retiredOne way or another I have been writing fiction for at least thirty years.
I have files of hand written jottings outlining short stories that remain unwritten but which were the seeds of episodes in longer novels.
I have sheets and sheets of notes, with the sprocket hole edges still intact, with passages of writing which, as I re-read them after so many years, are actually quite good.
I have notes printed out from floppy disks as it became evident that floppy disk drives were no longer de rigueur.
I have CDs containing the back ups (backs up?) of early drafts of all my final published novels.
I have a shelf of external disk drives going back over years of drafts, re-writes, re-re-writes and final off-to-the-publisher writes.
What I haven’t, any longer, is the will to carry on.
My electronic pencil has reached its stub end.
I started writing seriously in 2002 when the plot for The Iniquities Trilogy began to form and now, more than fourteen years later, I am re-writing that as one book Iniquities Revisited. Once that is done … no brick-wallmore.
There is only so much beating one’s head against brick walls one can take.
Brick walls?
Well, trying to get people to notice one book amongst tens of thousands; trying to get reviewers to review, booksellers to stock, readers to buy; putting up with the fact that best-seller lists are full of ghost written celebrity ‘autobiographies’, television tie-ins and cookery books that no one will ever use; watching television mini-series where the plots are thin and the plot holes are so large as to be only describable as sink holes.
‘Dispiriting’ doesn’t come close.
So that’s it. After The Last Dance, Walking Alone, Runaways, Highly Unsuitable Girl, Her Parents’ Daughter, A Set of Lies, Second Strand and Iniquities Reworked no more.
No more exploring the lives of my imaginary friends.
No more wondering how I can bring Susanna back into my world.
No more doubting whether Skye and Fergal’s marriage will survive their investigatory adventures.
No more worrying about how I can finally kill off Carl Witherby (who has been with me since the very beginning).
No more thinking what to put in a blog on the website.
No more being bothered to tweet and post on Facebook.
No more of any of that.
That’s it.
When people now ask me what I do I will no longer say ‘I write’ I will say I am retired.
With the emphasis on ‘tired’.

Genre? What Genre?

Fiction Genres MainGenreThe genre allocated to a book seems to be important. I hadn’t realised just how important until I began to write.
As a book buyer/reader I have never worried about what category a book fitted into and if anyone asked me what kind of novels I enjoy reading I would probably answer ‘most if they’re well written’.
One on-line bookseller, which I will not name, lists 33 different categories of books and, just within the general heading ‘Fiction’, there are 30 different genres.
How a book is defined determines so much about how it is treated by wholesalers and bookshops (on-line and ‘High Street’) and therefore also how easily they are found by potential buyers. But what happens when a book is ill-defined by any of the organisations who deal with a book from the publisher onwards?
My first three books which made up The Iniquities Trilogy, would probably be categorised as ‘Family Saga’ but that might lead people to believe they are for women readers. (Preconceived ideas about what constitutes ‘female’ and ‘male’ reading is a subject for another blog). But all three of those books involve crime (including rape, murder and psychological destruction), an unfolding slow-burning mystery, war-time exploits, spying and the odd love story… so many things that ‘Family Saga’ does not cover.
Highly Unsuitable Girl was a sort of ‘coming of age’ story about a woman getting to know herself and her limitations by the age of 60 odd. Funnily enough ‘Coming of Age’ is not a category used by many. Her Parents’ Daughter was a murder mystery with relationship and spy overtones and then A Set of Lies was a complete change – a political, family history, alternate historical novel. Second Strand is another murder mystery with overtones of the world of spies.
The point has been made that I am doing myself no favours by writing books which do not readily fit into the straight-jacket of any particular genre. It would certainly make it a little easier to find my books on-line or in High Street bookshops if I just wrote ‘Crime, Thrillers and Mystery’.
Perhaps it is easier to build up a following if people know what my books are going to be like – it is certainly true that many authors have made an excellent living by writing the same book over and over again – I will not mention names but I bet you can think of a few.
But with my books being so different from each other how can I build up a fan base unless buyers/readers just happen to find my non-predictable, intricately plotted stories set firmly in their time and place, with well-drawn (if not always likeable) characters.

Being the right size

Old LorryCars are first on my list of things that are not the right size – they are just getting and wider and wider. A 1970 Ford Mustang was 59” wide, a Mark 1 Ford Capri was 64.8”, a 1963 Morris Minor 1000 was 61” and a 1968 Austin A35 was only 55” wide. Even a 2003 Rolls-Royce Phantom was only 78.3”. Yet since that time cars in everyday use are getting wider and wider. A Range Rover Vogue is 87.4” (without mirrors – and what car has no mirrors?) which is 4 inches wider than a current Ford Transit van and about the same as lorries of the 1950s and 60s.
It’s such a shame that many traffic lanes, car park spaces and most garages in urban areas were designed to accommodate Morris Minors and A35s.
Doorways are second on my list of things that are the wrong size. Having just moved into a house constructed sometime in the 1820s I feel that in those days a) they didn’t have much furniture and b) those pieces they had were considerably smaller than today’s. Even a comfortable armchair of the 1980s would be 71 cm wide, yet many in 2016 are over 100 cm and doorways have got no wider….
And then there’s people – they seem to be getting taller and wider by the generation – but don’t get me onto that.
Talking of size, if not width, I have been wondering about how long a book should be. According to www.huffingtonpost.com the average word count of a Top 10 bestseller is 121,395. My recent (2014) book, Her Parents’ Daughter, came in at only 109,800 words which is the length of a Top 25 bestseller but I was happy to sell 300 copies….. According to Huffington’s graph the shorter the book the fewer copies are sold with Top 1000 sellers averaging only 73,408 words. So I will make sure A Second Strand is as long as it possibly can be and I now hold out great hopes for Iniquities as it is currently 365,367 words! But then it is three books (the three books of the Iniquities Trilogy – The Last Dance, Walking Alone and Runaways) and amazingly that averages at almost exactly 121,395 words per volume.
Top Ten Bestsellers List here we come!