What I’m up to

I’m working on a new book. In fact I’m working on two. Before you get too excited I’m not entirely sure what these books are yet, and I’m still very much in the procrastination stages — which involve a great deal of staring into the middle distance with tea, and occasionally writing blog posts about, for example, how I’m working on a new book. All I do know about the stories is that they’re very different from one another, and they might never appear.

One of the two stories has been fermenting for about three months. I have a mix of characters with fleshed-out back stories, and an overall timeline. I’ve started writing it… and I’ve stopped. Although I “like” (don’t viscerally hate) what I’ve written so far, I’ve decided I’m committing the cardinal sin of starting the book too early in the timeline, before the storyline has kicked off. It’s a great way for me to write my way into the characters — but it’s not so great for readers, who these days tend to frown upon half a tree’s worth on the sociology and tobacco rituals of hobbits. I like to start plots on page one and hopefully grip readers straight away.

So while I think about the plot of that story a little more, and let the characters prove, I’m writing something else — in a world I already know and love.

I want to tell more stories about St Paul’s College, as seen in The Pink and the Grey. I want to know more about characters like Dennis, Amanda and the Archivist, and what happened after the events of that book, and also what happened before. I want to look at life in college from different perspectives.

I’ve written a couple of thousand words, I guess: explorations, ideas, vignettes — not necessarily for publication. I’m letting the characters guide me to a plot, or plots. I might end up with a bunch of short stories, or a couple of novellas, or another novel, or nothing at all. I don’t know yet. I’m not forcing it.

Thinking so much about St Paul’s probably explains why I saw the Archivist walking along a Cambridge street yesterday. It was definitely him: in mufti, lurking behind sunglasses and a dazzling all-red suit, with his grey gonk hair streaming back. He was hiding in plain sight, exactly as he would.

I wonder where he was going? Why? Does it have anything to do with Amanda? I might ask him. I want to know more about that red suit, too.

So that’s what I’m up to. Tell me in the comments what you’d like to know about St Paul’s —  you might earn a line of thanks in the end result, whatever that turns out to be. Please help make my tea-based procrastination blogging worth it.

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2012-2013

Happy New Year! I thought I’d take a few minutes to write a short review of my 2012 and how I see 2013 unfolding.

My plan for 2012 was to write and publish as many stories as I sensibly could – a mix of mostly shorts with some longer form stories of about 40K words, at the hotly disputed novella/novel border. I didn’t set a concrete target for how many, but I imagined a pipeline of sorts: in parallel I’d be writing one book, revising a second, and publishing/pimping a third. I wanted to end the year with a pleasing body of work for sale and an increasing trickle of revenue.

Of course, no plan survives contact with the enemy.

In 2012 I wrote many words: over 200,000 for sure. The bulk of Till Undeath Do Us Part was written in 2011 but it increased in length in 2012; and I wrote all of The Pink and the Grey and the first draft of my next novel. The balance of the word count went on stories I decided, for one reason or another, to shelve uncompleted. They remain in suspended animation: I hope to resurrect at least one eventually, even if only the core concept and the title remain.

I can’t truly say I met my goal for the year. But to publish a novella and a novel in one calendar year across a whole bunch of formats ain’t so bad, and I’m aiming to rattle through the remaining stages of the next novel as quickly as I can. Two novels and a novella in roughly twelve months sounds very good to me.

As to sales: well, I still suffer from invisibility, and that’s something I need to address in 2013. I’m grateful to So So Gay magazine for reviewing both books — and even nominating Till Undeath Do Us Part for Best Book of 2012 — but so far that remains the only publication to take a punt on either book. These reviews — unbiased by rose-tinted friendship — give me the confidence to keep writing, keep publishing, even when the gremlins of self-doubt mutter dark words in my ear.

That’s not to say I don’t value the support and kind words of my family and friends, especially those who’ve bought one or both books and evangelised on my behalf. It means a great deal to me.

What’s my plan for 2013? I wish I could say same as 2012 and carry on as before, but that’s not possible. I’ll write as many stories as I can, yes: but I can’t live on dust and air and junk mail. So I suspect I’ll be writing less for myself, and more for others. I have plenty of ideas that I’d love to flesh out into stories, if I can. I want to revisit St Paul’s College from The Pink and the Grey, and see if I can resurrect one of the suspended stories. We’ll see.

The first goal, though, is to publish the new book as soon as I can. And since a deadline doesn’t exist unless you tell someone, here it is: it’ll be out by the end of this month.