How do you know when a novel – or short story, for that matter – is finished?
At what point should you stop tinkering, put down the quill, lean back in your overstuffed armchair and say to yourself “Right, done! Now to publish”?
The greatly-missed Iain Banks once said:
Don’t try to perfect as you go along, just get to the end of the damn thing. If you try to polish every sentence there’s a chance you’ll never get past the first chapter.
You can hear the years of experience in the quote – there speaks a man who learnt the hard way. Because, of course, we all want to publish the most perfect book we possibly can. And we’re artists, so there’s always a different way to express something, a fancier adjective, a more elegant turn of phrase, a slicker exposition…
Well hello there Internet, how splendid to be back! Please say you missed me, or there may be the most frightful scene.
I have, as the more eagle-eyed amongst you will have observed, been away. I could spin you a sordid yarn of diamond-smuggling and a brief sojourn in a hellish Peruvian jail, but the truth is far more prosaic. I lost my voice. Not in a “warm brandy, kitten round the neck” sort of a way. No, that would have been far more enjoyable.
The Blogger’s Worst Nightmare
In what must surely be the worst professional catastrophe which can befall writers and bloggers, I found myself with nothing to say and no means of saying it. Inspiration dried up so entirely that even the trusty old standby methods of finding post inspiration failed. Moreover, whenever I attempted to write, the words came out flatter than a Friday-night karaoke bar. No fun, no lightness, no substance, no purpose. None of that which regular readers have been kind enough to say they enjoy in my writing. Which led me to thinking…
In the grand pantheon of social media platforms, each most definitely has its own character.
Facebook is a faithful old friend with whom I’ve shared many a good time over the years and holds a special place in my jaded and cynical heart. We don’t speak as much as we should, but whenever we do get together it’s as though nothing has changed. Quiet comradeship binds us and no matter what else changes, Facebook is always there.
Google+ is my new BFF (as the kids, I believe, would style it). G+ was a friend-of-a-friend and, on paper, we have little in common at first glance, yet we have bonded astonishingly quickly over a shared love of certain mutual interests. So compatible are we that I now spend more time with G+ than with some of my older acquaintances. We just work together, you know?
Pinterest. Ahhhhh, Pinterest Can you hear the sighs? Pinterest is the pretty, intriguing-looking newcomer who I worship from afar, too scared to approach for fear of finding I have nothing of interest to share with her. There she is, all fresh and lovely and multi-faceted and what do I have to offer up? Nothing but my stories. One day Pinterest and I may share lunch, but that day is not today.
And then we have Twitter.
There is one magic trick for marketing your books (or blog or brand or self)…
What’s that you protest? Everyone else tells you “there’s no magic trick to successful marketing?” Yep, I’ve heard that too. Don’t believe them, they’re wrong.
There is one magic trick to marketing and it is this…
Don’t spread yourself too thinly.
Right, off you trot and get on with it.
Actually, woah, hang on… before you go, allow me to elaborate…
A writing teacher (and multi-published novelist) once told me that to really understand a character you’re writing, you should make a list of the items they carry in their pockets.
While I hate to disagree with such an august mentor, I’m afraid that I simply have to.
You see, if you take a peek in my pockets at this very moment – an undertaking from which I heartily dissuade you – you will find a handkerchief, some small change and a couple of buttons which popped off my coat. A character who uses money, occasionally blows his nose and shivers a lot does not a compelling story make.
This may be different for the fairer sex. I have never plucked up the courage to venture into the deepest recesses of a lady’s handbag, so am not intimately acquainted with the traditional contents of such. However, I suspect them to be of an equally utilitarian nature; I would hazard a guess at purse, travelcard, keys, phone and a little spare make-up.
Show me the woman who carries a blunderbuss, a taxidermied stoat and an assortment of kazoos in her bag and I’ll show you a story!
A Room With Views
In short, the whole pocket exercise doesn’t really work for me. No. Far more telling and illustrative are the items which characters have dotted around their living room. In a supposedly private space, we reveal far more of our true natures and past lives than we could ever fit in a pocket.
Go on, admit it – I had you at “kitten” didn’t I?
I see an awful lot of posts from indie writers complaining that they simply don’t have time to market themselves and their writing on social media. An awful lot. What with the demands of a ‘real life’ and the time we need to dedicate to writing whatever it is we’re trying to publicise, there just aren’t enough hours in the day.
And let’s be honest, there’s no point in spending all your time on marketing if it leaves you with nothing to market. I’m no economics expert (a lucky ‘C’ in O-Level maths in fact) but even I can see that the laws of supply-and-demand demand that there’s at least some supply.
And that’s where the kitten comes in.