writing & publishing
My overlords at Tor UK have just announced that they have an open submissions policy. If you’re a budding novelist, who finds it frustrating to get access to an agent let alone a publisher, it’s now time to start preparing that manuscript to send in. There are a few guidelines to follow, which is generally to make life easier for the editors given the amount of work about to come their way. They include: you must use Comic Sans, size 16 or above, and any maps must be drawn using Microsoft Paint. Julie, my editor, especially likes SF poetry submissions.
‘This sort of opinion may be merely the bray of a jackass heard over a hedge as we pass along a country road, but there is no reason why we should tether jackasses alongside public thoroughfares. The jackass may think his braying melodious, and our present attitude of fulsome indulgence toward idiots may end in our coming to think so ourselves. The word “idiot” is derived from a Greek word which means “a private person”. I need not stress this point further. I have no wish to persecute people who do not like chamber music so long as they realise that their dislike of it indicates a lack of something in themselves. I have no desire to persecute or torment or jeer at or sneer at any human being who suffers from a mental or a physical deficiency; but when these abnormal creatures advertise their deficiencies, then persecution becomes a public service.’
– Compton Mackenzie, Gramophone magazine 1929.
A random second-hand book dispenser. Amazing.
I’ve gone through a few ups and downs of being published, getting translation deals, or not, good press reviews, stinking Amazon reviews, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the more you think about writing and the Internet the less good it is for a stable state of mind. But it isn’t easy – the Internet and modern publishing seems to shape you into acting in a certain way. It makes writers competitive with each other (even if most of us won’t admit it) which is futile since we’re all actually on the same side. You can see the jealousy bubbling away if you know where to look. You also start to equate online activity with being proportionate to good sales, but it doesn’t really work like that in 2012 when everyone is clamouring for attention. And if you go down the route of seeking attention all the time, it can really impact upon what you’re here for in the first place: to write. (As an aside, Sam Sykes made a different point about the silence of being a writer, which isn’t directly related to this, but it’s also a good read.)
Anyway, for a while the whole thing was causing a bit of mental anguish. Concentrating on the correct parts of the writing process was replaced by focussing on the peripherals. I wanted to change that, and tried a few things.
But one of the biggest things that really has helped me out is sports. When I was younger, I used to be into plenty of sports, but in my 20s I pretty much got jaded with the British sports industry and drifted away. But, over the past few months I’ve utterly thrown myself – and I mean ridiculously so – into following a certain sport: American Football. I sort of followed it when I was younger, but not really – because being British, for years we got rubbish coverage. You’d find out about results way too late. Games were on at ridiculous hours. But it’s not the same anymore – there is so much more for international fans.
I won’t bore you with details, but having distractions, becoming emotionally invested in a team, statistics, tactics, the drama and so on, has remarkable impacts on my state of mind for writing. Over the months, it’s helped create conditions in which I can really concentrate on writing again and not all the external worries. Emotional ups and downs are invested in something else entirely, which means that the writing ups and downs seem less important. When I sit down to write now, I’m not concerned about what so-and-so said about this or that, or how my online sales rank is doing.
Buddhists among us would point out that thinking of others really is the path to peace, so thinking about sports teams is a no-brainer. I guess ultimately it’s all about not taking your writerly self as seriously as you think you should. So long as I’m writing books, that’s fine with me – that’s the serious stuff. The rest is all a game.
Another riff on the Private Writing theme. I used to carry around a battered Moleskin notebook like every other writer in town, but in the digital age I started simply to send myself texts or emails and grew out of using a notebook. Not ideal, and not aesthetically pleasing in the least.
However, Meernotes, an app for the iPhone, goes some way to bridging that gap between notebooks and digital devices. I’ve really wanted a nice note-taking app on the iPhone because the in-built app is pretty rubbish, and Evernote just got on my nerves. I actually enjoy using Meernotes. Your notes are safely stored with the iCloud. You can add your own photos, though you can’t flow text around them like you might in a real notebook – however, you can annotate the photos themselves. I think it can be used on the iPad, too, though it’s not a full version – that would be a really good thing, however, especially if it syncs like Day One does.
I’m sure lots more interesting features will crop up over time, but for now you can see it in action in the video which is on their website. It’s well worth your time.