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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2013: three more books and a huge financial boost

I’ve been finding it hard to make time for the blog this year. Week in, week out, I’ve been banging out 1000 words a day; either that or re-writing and editing them. Hard graft, but it’s paid off: I’ve produced three books and earned enough to ease any financial worries for another year or two, a situation that would have been beyond my wildest dreams ten years ago.

In the first part of the year I produced text for Mike Pannett’s Yorkshire, a full-colour hardback photo-book showcasing the North Yorkshire countryside and linking some of John Potter’s excellent pictures to stories in the Now Then, Lad series. Published by Dalesman Publications, it came out in October and seems to have sold quite well. I’ll find out when the January royalty statement arrives.

Once that was out of the way I turned my attention to a personal project I’ve been thinking about for some years. More Jobs Than Birthdays is a memoir of my own working life. In it I touch on many of the fifty or so jobs that preceded, got in the way of, and finally yielded to, a writing career. I haven’t found a buyer yet, and I doubt I shall try very hard. I am well aware that the memoir of a low-profile jobbing writer is never going to appeal to a mainstream publisher. I will most likely self-publish it, firstly as an e-book, then follow up with a hard-copy version.

I completed the third book of a busy year shortly before Christmas. I Know What You’re Thinking was one of the more bizarre projects I’ve undertaken. It began with a request from a contact in China, acting on behalf of a wealthy client who wanted to commission a sci-fi novel exploring the theme of thought-reading. I declared myself interested, submitted a lengthy document outlining my experience and my thoughts on the subject, and, after a delay of some months, was asked to go ahead. It was an enormous challenge. The original plan was to re-write an existing 90,000-word manuscript; but I found that so poorly written, so full of unlikely, even ludicrous, devices, that I decided to start a new book, from scratch. I think it has worked out rather well – my client certainly seems to appreciate what I’ve produced - and I feel that, along with a handsome fee, I’ve gained an education. The fact is, I have rarely attempted fiction. I have almost always written versions of historical actuality. Writing this seemed to demonstrate to me that I can make things up, and enjoy doing so. The realisation is making me re-think a lot of what I have written in the past and what I have planned to write in the future. My instinct has always been to write strictly according to actuality, even autobiographically. I can now see ways in which I might weave fictional narratives around the wealth of experience I have garnered in my 64 years. I suspect that any other writer would be perplexed that it has taken me until now to think this way; but I have always felt anchored to the truth, weighed down by it. I suspect it’s because in writing about ‘what happened’ I’ve generally been attempting to make sense of it, to get the facts right, to analyse and understand past events. I think I finally feel equipped to invent a narrative and enrich it, authenticate it, with the knowledge of places, people and life itself that my personal voyage has given me.  Live and learn: it’s been my personal motto for many a year.

As to 2014, I shall be tied up with two more books. On Monday I’m due to start on  Mike Pannett’s childhood – delivery April 30th. Come June or July I should be starting on a thriller based around the true-life adventures of a smuggler-turned-black-market-oil-trader. By the end of the year I should be free of such commitments and ready to turn to a list of projects that I’ve put on hold over the years as I tried to make a living out of writing other people’s lives. I’m planning to be pretty busy over the next twenty or so years – ‘If the good Lord wills it, and the creeks don’t rise’, as my cowboy friends like to say.