Monday, January 14, 2008

ON WRITING, AND DISTRACTIONS FROM WRITING

Five chapters into THE LOVERS, the new Parker book, and just as I'm starting to hit my stride, I realize that I'm now going to be sidetracked for a while. In an ideal world, there would be one book upon which to concentrate, so that each day time could be spent on that novel and a little progress could be made. In practice, though, that's just not possible. The list of distractions has begun to lengthen, and while some can be dismissed quickly, others cannot.

THE REAPERS is now four months from publication. Even though, in theory, it is finished, in practice it is not. The copy edited manuscript is due to arrive this week - or, rather, the first copy edited manuscript, as the UK publisher has reached that stage in the process before the US publisher - and will need to be returned by the start of February. It represents the final opportunity to make significant changes to the book, but as I have already moved on to the writing of the next novel it will be much harder for me to think myself back into THE REAPERS than it was before I submitted it. Reading the copy edited manuscript means trying to juggle a number of balls at once: checking the copy editor's changes; trying to spot any errors that I might have missed myself, but which might not be familiar to the copy editor; and keeping the overall narrative in mind at the same time with one eye on areas that might be improved. It's like trying to look at a tree and a forest simultaneously.

By the time I've finished the UK manuscript, the US manuscript will have arrived. I'll then have to apply the changes that were made to the UK manuscript to the second manuscript, while also trying to keep a note of any useful changes or errors that the US copy editor might have spotted that should be applied to the UK manuscript at the proof stage. This will be complicated by the fact that I have to travel to the US at the start of February for meetings and research, so I won't be at home surrounded by my research books and notes when I'm doing the American edits. The solution, in all probability, will be to photocopy the UK manuscript and bring that along as well, and hope any further problems that arise can easily be checked on the Internet, or can wait until I return home.

In the meantime, THE UNQUIET has just been published in Ireland and the UK, and I'm trying to do stuff to keep myself in the public eye in the hope that it will raise awareness of the novel by a kind of osmosis. Thus I've taken on some reviews for radio and TV, including ploughing through a long, if fascinating, history of the CIA. (I'll also be worrying about how THE UNQUIET will sell in paperback. Writers, upon publication of their own book, start looking at what else is out at the same time, and what kind of competition it constitutes. We also start fretting about the possibility that our time has passed; that everyone who wanted to read the book has already bought it in hardback; and that bookstores have somehow neglected to unpack the boxes containing our books, and they are now languishing under the Christmas returns. This is compounded, in the case of the UK, by first week jitters, and the fact that, although books now officially go on sale on the Thursday of each week, thelists are compiled from sales commencing earlier in the week, so that a book's first week on sale is effectively a half week for the purposes of the bestseller lists. Complicated, isn't it?)

Other little things also crop up: the first chapter of THE REAPERS is too long for inclusion as a teaser in the US paperback of THE UNQUIET. Should the prologue be used instead? The cover comes through, adapted from its first incarnation to more closely resemble the original US hardback. I like it, but there's a minor issue of font size to be addressed. Meanwhile, the US cover for THE REAPERS is now being looked at again, and is likely to change significantly from earlier suggestions. The UK publishers have been working on ideas for additional content, or 'added value', to go with THE REAPERS. If that is to be written, then I'll need to know soon, as it will represent a significant investment of time.

The script for THE ERLKING needs further work, and I'm due to meet the producers at the end of January to discuss progress. I'll need to set aside some time over the next week or two in order to do a rewrite, and then I'm going to hand it over to the director, who is also the co-writer, as I won't have time to do anything else with it until the summer, if then. I find it hard to keep one part of my mind thinking about that project while the other tries to keep THE LOVERS simmering. It's also alien territory to me, as I've mentioned before. I'm not comfortable with the process, and that has contributed to delays in tackling the script.

Various requests to contribute to anthologies, etc. keep arriving, but I really don't have time to do them. I have an idea for a short story, but I still haven't managed to write it. Two books have arrived seeking approving quotes, but I'm still working on the review books, and I also have a pile of stuff that I was rather hoping to read for pleasure. There's an author I'd like to interview, but I don't see how I can. It's disappointing for her publisher, and I'd like to help, but the dates don't suit, even if I could find time to read her latest book and do the research for the interview.

Tour dates are being lobbed around. I'm losing most of the first two weeks of March, all of May and June, and probably part of July or August as well. April is problematical too, as I have a minor, if nasty, 'procedure' to undergo, and am likely to be out of sorts, and out of circulation, for a week to ten days afterwards. Suddenly, the prospect of delivering THE LOVERS by next October comes to seem less easily attainable.

Still, I managed to get almost 2000 words written today, and this column. The frustrating part is knowing that I may not get as much work done again on THE LOVERS for a couple of weeks at least, and I'm kind of enjoying the writing of it. I also know that a structured approach to its writing - a routine, by any other name - is essential if progress is to be made. Sometimes, 'having written' is better than 'writing', but writing, for all the times that it can be
difficult (or, perhaps, because it is often difficult), is still immensely fulfilling.

Unfortunately, the business of being a writer occasionally gets in
the way.

This week John read

Voices by Arnaldur Indridason (and some of The Truth Commissioner by David Park, and a little of Legacy of Ashes by Tim Weiner

and listened to

In Rainbows by Radiohead (bought, like a good Luddite, on CD)
May Your Heart Be the Map by Epic 45
Autumn Fallin' by Jaymay

11 comments:

Helga said...

Hope you enjoy writing your new Parker book as much as I enjoy reading the ones already published:o)
Every time I read your books is like meeting old friends you have not met in a long time. Funny how I catch myself wishing the best for Parker, Angel and Louis in your future books.
Thousand thanks, Helga

Josephine Damian said...

What about an assistant?

If you don't want someone underfoot, they have these "VAs" now - virtual assistants - who can handle a lot of these tasks for you. You can hire them part/full time or just to perform certain tasks.

When - if - I'm ever published, getting a VA will be on the top of my to-do list.

John said...

I'm too much of a control freak, I'm afraid. I guess I'll just have to whine instead!

Ali Karim said...

Happy New Year John -

Look forward to REAPERS and seeing you in 2008

The very best -

Ali

Annie Chen said...

Hi, John, how's The Unquiet doing in the market? I think you needn't care too much about how many copies of your new book can be sold. Your fans read your book not because it's on the bestsellers' list but because they just love the story you create and your writing style. I believe the main reason that you write a novel is not for it to be on the top of the bestsellers' list, which is for me a set of whimsical and unpredictable rankings, but for your fans who are appreciative of your works. You are a brilliant and unique writer whether or not your new books in the years to come will be on the top sellers' list.

I've just finished reading the Chinese version of The Killing Kind and The History of Love( by Nicole Krauss ). I like both books though they are so different. One is very terrifying and exciting while the other is slower-paced and heart-breaking. I'm looking forward to your new novel, The Lovers, which sounds like a romantic thriller. Please take your time on your new book and don't give yourself too much pressure. While waiting for the release of your new book, I'll read The Book of Lost Things one more time. It's a classic that I'll read over and over again along with The Little Prince, The Great Gatsby, and The Lover( by Marguerite Duras ).

Best wishes for your new book, your busy life, and your interesting career adventure as a screenwriter.

Sarcastipapa said...

Love your books, love your style. Just so you know I just "discovered" your site on Stumble Upon, hope the new traffic heading to your blog won't drive you nuts...Thanks for letting me open the door to Imagination once again, I though I had forever locked it...

Jingles Carlisle said...

Is it just me, or is the anticipation of another blog post about as anxiety-producing as that of his latest book?

:-)

Drinks with Tony said...

Hi John,

For your book, "The Book of Lost Things", did you run into obstacles with publishers or editors b/c the narrator was young, yet it wasn't a YA novel?

I'm putting together another proposal for my completed ms of a pubescent teen, but it's definitely not YA, even though a few agents who have considered it automatically think YA since the narrator is young. The themes of sexuality vs. fundamentalist Christianity take it out of YA.

I keep bringing up 'towelhead' and 'hick' as examples of literary fiction w/ young narrators and now I'm using yours. :)

thanks,
Tony
www.tonydushane.com

Sara said...

It's nice to know that the anxieties of a writer don't really change much.

I'm currently a grad student myself, have these budding dreams that sway back and forth between extreme fear and extreme hope.

I find myself feeling almost as though my graduate degree constantly rests on the tip of some big dandelion waiting for someone to hit me with the cuff of a pant-leg, or exhale just a little too hard.

I feel like I'm in midst of one big distraction as even now I've got a five page essay due on Monday where I'm writing about the caves in "A Passage to India" and haven't written a word.

I'm just always grateful when writers produce a blog. It makes me feel as though I'm not alone in this crazy journey.

Mark said...

Hi John,I think your Parker books are great.It is really good that you are carrying on the tradition of greatly talented Irish writers,who,although have been comparitively few,are great successes. Thanks for flying the Irish flag.
Is mise le meas, a cara,
Mark

PS:The collector reminds me of sinister clampers

jay said...

Mr. Connolly or Assistant,

While reading Every Dead Thing, I continued to see references to The Body Emblazoned. Then I read the appendix and was pleased to see that it was source material. I am now reading Nocturnes and wonder if the genesis for "Mr. Pettinger's Daemon" was the section on no-man's-land myths and narratives in Fussel's The Great War and Modern Memory. (Renegades living in no-man's-land and scavenging and feeding off corpses.). Or do these tales continue to be part of common English/Irish cultural heritage? I apologize if this has already been addressed on this site.
Jason B.