|Making waves and creating a splash.
Hello there. I’m writing this in advance, so this may only be accurate at the time of typing (on 22/04). My debut thriller, Standpoint, is doing well. I know it’s not a very British thing to say, and I’ll come back to British things later, but there it is. There were 20,000 free downloads and, as I write this, there’s every possibility that subsequent sales will reach into four figures soon.
It’s an exciting and slightly bewildering time – a little like winning the raffle when you quite had your idea of the box of dark chocolates, and then seeing that mouthwatering box of delights heading your way. Some people are cheering for you and some want to arm-wrestle you for chocolate (who can blame them), and there’s really no adequate explanation for why it has turned out that way. Maybe, sometimes, life is like a box of chocolates.
I’m acutely aware of all those people whose generosity and kindness have helped Standpoint’s success, and those who aren’t here to see it. It’s all a learning curve and here are some of the things I’ve learned so far.
1. You can only write your own book, your way.
Any other option is pretty much impossible in the long run. Ghostwriting is a different kettle of fish. If you are creating something for yourself (the starting point of all books) you have to set aside what critics may think – they’ll be along in time, trust me.
2. Once you’ve written your own book it’s time to think about the reader.
I’ve had editors in the past and I’ve edited other people’s work, but this is the first time I’ve had a complete novel edited by someone else. It’s not only liberating, it’s also made me look at my work differently. If something that seems obvious to you isn’t obvious to your editor, you can bet your bottom dollar a reader will struggle with it too.
3. Change is inevitable.
Beyond a word here and a semi-colon there, you may find that your cherished – and obscure – reference to 1980s’ synthesiser pop doesn’t translate well to a Canadian reader who wants to follow the plot not go on a Wikipedia quest. In my case I was happy to compromise on some of the minor details because they only added something for me. I also needed to think about what might add to the book.
4. Everyone’s a critic and the web is their sounding board.
Feedback is an interesting thing. As writers we want the audience to engage with us and to feel something by the end of the book. However, what if their feeling is tedium? Interestingly, I’ve noticed a split between UK and US readers. The Brits like the relationship side of Standpoint, the tone and the character development, while some US readers struggle with the slang (now addressed by the inclusion of a glossary) and the pacing. My protagonist is not James Bond, or Jason Bourne, and I never intended him to be.
You can’t please everyone and nor should you try to, but show me an author who doesn’t want people to enjoy the experience of reading their book and I’ll show you someone who has misunderstood the point of publication.
5. Enjoy the ride while it lasts.
Today it’s all going well and I’m thrilled. Five months ago I had two and a bit novels in a series nobody wanted. Later this year my second thriller will be published by Joffe Books – spoiler: there will be slang! Sometimes things align for you and the stars are favourable. Immerse yourself in the experience and don’t waste time questioning it, or looking for the formula that can replicate it. Do pay attention though!
A quote attributed to the artist, Tracey Emin, about the media, runs: “I don’t ask for an apology because it’s only tomorrow’s fish-and-chip paper.” Today’s best-seller will inevitably slide down the charts and there will always be something new to surpass what once was. It’s a continuum rather than a destination.
Whatever happens, going forward, I am going forward. For now, that’s all I need to know.
|Where do you draw the line?