A piece I wrote soon after completing the first draft of The Vanishing Lord…
I should know.
Being an author is about so much more than just writing – the writing itself is the relatively easy part. It’s everything else aside from the writing that makes being an author hard. I can string a few thousand words together as well as the next chap, but getting those thousands of words into a format that one would recognise as a novel is a considerable challenge. Story arcs, turning points, conflict and resolutions – all these things have to happen at certain times and in particular ways for your magnum opus to take leap from creative ramblings to an actual, bone fide proper novel.
And all that – not to mention the endless editing and weeping – can seem somewhat dull and certainly detracts from the great, all-encompassing joy of simply sitting down with your characters and having a fine old time of it.
Fair enough. A story has to make sense. I get it. It is a reasonable enough expectation.
Other author-y exploits aside from writing include a degree of self-promotion. I don’t mind a bit of Twitter action here and there and a few social media posts with links to my fine tome, but it will be a cold day in Hell before I do a book signing and I try to avoid interviews where I can because, quite frankly, without the prose to hide behind I am actually a bit weird in real life.
But, you know, nothing worth having ever comes easy and I really do want to become a good author. In fact I want to become a great author, because I don’t do anything without the intention of being the very best. Not something I often achieve, but it’s the thought that counts. Besides, no job is perfect, right?
The next PorterGirl novel, The Vanishing Lord, has landed with my publisher and I am currently revelling in that ‘golden period’ of feeling slightly smug at having completed another book, blissfully unaware that an editor somewhere is gleefully ripping it to shreds. There is certainly a plot. There are proper clues and red herrings and, by jingo, there is conflict. Every main character is gnashing their teeth about something or other. There are even illicit assignations in cleaning cupboards – but this being Old College, we are mercifully spared any graphic detail. Most of the thousands of words are pretty good and I am confident that the characters can hold their own against the great and good of the literary world. But is it a good novel..?
At this moment, I suspect it is not a good novel. It is most probably a crap novel. But once the edits come back and the wailing and tears subside, I will sit down with it again and again until I can push the thing – kicking and screaming, no doubt – over the threshold from being merely good writing to being a good novel. Because if I want to be a great author, that is exactly what I have to do. And keep doing it.
In the meantime, I will amuse myself with the everyday delight of being a good writer, continuing with the grand nonsense that is Who Shot Tony Blair? and a completely pointless yet entertaining (for me, anyway) Poirot parody, inspired by my good friend FictionFan and an overwhelming compunction to replace Sophie Hannah’s irritating new sidekick with the formidable Captain Hastings.
Oh, I almost forgot. Buy my books, etc etc…