A few years ago I wrote a novel. I like it, quite a lot actually, because it’s exactly the sort of thing I would write if I wrote a novel. The protagonists are a pragmatic female detective, a peppery male journalist and a dutiful, if reluctant and put upon big guy. It’s set in York. It opens with an impossible murder and closes with Leeds Bradford airport being torn apart by the secret creatures that live at the top of the atmosphere. It’s fun, and knockabout, and a little bit like John Wyndham and early ’80s Doctor Who, with a light sprinkling of end of the century conspiracy theories and UFOlogy for good measure. I like it a lot. So did my beta readers.
No one else did.
Which is a problem when trying to write fiction for pay and even more of a problem when it happens over and over again. A friend of mine used to have a postcard he’d hold up when he read my stuff saying ‘Where’s the plot, Al?’ and another saying ‘Who’s the bad guy?’. Another friend once very kindly pointed out to me that I was actually writing a graphic novel and I can paper several rooms of the adorably ramshackle Victorian terrace we’re currently renting simply by printing out every rejection slip I’ve ever had. Every other writer is the same, of course, but here’s the thing. In the space of the last three years, as well as pretty much constant emotional turmoil ranging from a divorce to a job so unremittingly horrific that I found it difficult to show up at all for my last four weeks, I’ve seen countless writers, good friends, contemporaries, get book deals and go on to success. David Tallerman, Louise Morgan, Adam Christopher, Vincent Holland-Keen and more have gone on to the bigger and better things they utterly deserve.
I haven’t. Not through want of trying, God only knows, but I think that’s the point. I’m trying too hard and as a result every failure, every knockback hurts like the first one and all that ever does is slow me down and make me more reluctant. The end result is that the last time I completed a piece of short fiction was just over a year ago and the last time I sold a piece of short fiction? I’m reasonably certain the last Presidential elections in the US were just gearing up. It’s not a great track record, let’s face it.
In fact, the major success I’ve had in fiction terms was back in 2006 or so, when I did NanoWriMo and I wrote The Angel Stream. Just under 70,000 words in four weeks, with the carrot of a Homestar Runner messenger bag at the end of it. The bag never appeared, but the book did, and that’s got me thinking. You see, NanoWriMo is next month and I want to do something, I just know I don’t want to go near fiction for some considerable time.
So why not NanoJourno? Why not set myself a journalistic task of similar size which I must try and complete inside 30 days. I’ve even got two lined up, as you can see;#
Dead Air: Pseudopod Outros 2012
A collection of my closing essays for Pseudopod for the year. These are all stored and need some cleaning up, as well as the simple logistics of getting them arrayed in the right order.
Dead Screem: A Collection of Essays About The Movies Of 2012
I’m doing, or trying to do, unusual perspective essays about each movie I see at the theater this year. It’s a challenge and I’m hilariously behind but a solid month would see this done, prepped and out on SmashWords or the Kindle store, I’m sure.
So that’s the stick, but what about the carrot? Well, they don’t make Homestar Runner messenger bags any more but there is this. Also, I’m open to the idea of setting myself four, weekly goals, which if I hit I get smaller carrots as rewards. Because trust me, there are plenty of things I could go for.
Regardless, I want, and need, to get something big done this year. Which is where you come in. Is there a project you’d prefer to see? Do you have any ideas as to what you’d like to see in there? All the usual contact details are below and I’m honestly looking for advice here. Let me know what you think, I’ll let you know what I decide and November should be a fun month.
Want to talk to me about the article? Come see me on Twitter at @alasdairstuart or email me.