Thursday, 29 January 2009

Back up plan?

I wasn't going to read my prologue on Monday night, I had something else prepared. Fortunately, though unfortunately for the storytelling, it had a happy ending so I shelved it. I thought maybe I could share it with you on here instead. It is a bit long, sorry!
An eternity ago, or so it seems now, I had an idea for a book. It had a beginning, a middle and (though some people may disagree here) an end. This I imagine, if you are that way inclined is a good basis on which to write a book. Me though, I had obviously read books and enjoyed reading but writing one? I didn’t know where to start; I hadn’t exactly excelled at school unless acting the fool and setting light to farts constitutes a success? So the book idea was shelved in the darker recesses of my mind until one day on a whim I decided to give it a go. I was living on my own at this time and had plenty of free time to devote to writing and the whole thing seemed to flow quite naturally. That is until I got to about 100 pages when I printed it off then sat down and read it. It was shit! I’d spent all that time writing 100 pages of shit! But even though there were 100 pages of shit it was my shit so I put it in a binder and tucked it in a drawer.
It didn’t see the light of day again until I met DJ and somehow, obviously the worse for wear with drink I took it out, dusted it off and showed it to her. Somewhere around that time too I let her read the book. She liked it, really liked it and wanted me to write some more. She also gave me a few writing tips e.g.: sentences should be less than 300 words, punctuation plays an important part in writing and using the spell-checker will help to make words legible and in turn of some sense to the plot. I took these words of wisdom on board and after sulking for a while, she was criticising my shit after all, I changed the sentences into paragraphs, inundated the story with exclamation marks and altered the spell-checker to add all my words to the dictionary. Then, then I ripped it up and started again.
I was happy with the story but the way I was telling it was all wrong so I re-wrote it differently and even changed the names of the characters. Like that was going to help! It didn’t. I’d got to page 100 again and it was still wrong so back it went in the binder and in the drawer. DJ kept trying to get me to persevere with it but I wasn’t having any of it and fobbed her off with excuses like; “I’m having so much trouble conjugating my verbs.” And “I’m struggling with my possessive apostrophe.” This only kept her sweet for a little while probably when she realised I had no idea what a noun or an apostrophe was never mind conjugating them possessively! She came up with a bright idea that I should start a blog and post a chapter a week, this would get me working on it again and keep me disciplined having to write a chapter a week. I was getting regular readers and positive vibes but my heart wasn’t in it and my chapters were getting smaller; “A chapter has to be longer than a sentence yano?” How things had changed! Anyway when I got to around page 100, you got it; in the binder in the drawer.
It was shortly after this I had an epiphany; I was going to add a gag here but there is epiphany humour in the book and you might buy it and you can get too much of a good thing. Sorry I digress, I had worked out how to proceed with the story and started writing again. This time I was sure it was going well and when I got to page 100 and sailed past I knew so I knuckled down and finished it. I gave it to DJ and she loved it but then what the hell did I do with it. Nothing was the answer to that and the reason why it was the answer was that only one person had read it and even if that person may be slightly biased and embarrassed when she made me cry it made my book a 100% success.
I didn’t exactly do nothing with it though; DJ’s mom had come to visit and to get on her good side I agreed she could read it. She made some encouraging grunts, which in hindsight might have been wind and I took to be another positive. 2 out of 2 still 100% success! Then I had a bit of a set-back. A couple of people who knew I’d written the book had asked to read it and fuelled by the euphoria of my recent successes I agreed. Then I heard nothing back from them. So I waited and waited and waited... Now because they hadn’t said anything negative I was still 100% right? Right! But why, if they were so keen to read it they must have read it, didn’t they say what they thought of it? Perhaps they didn’t like it? An important saying of mine “if you don’t want to know the answers don’t ask the question” came into play here so I kept quiet and festered.
It was about now that DJ had found out about an initiative from You Write On, Legend Press and The Arts Council to publish 5000 books by Christmas. The deal was; if you fulfilled their criteria and got the required information to them by October 31st then they would publish your book for free in time for Christmas. I keep saying in time for Christmas because this was how the whole thing was sold to us, us being everyone who entered the scheme, but not how it was tucked away in small print on the contract, I’ll come back to this later. They also had a second option where they would publish it the same as before but for a small fee would furnish the book with an ISBN number so it could be sold in the book market place.
DJ already had her memoir written and had decided to submit that to them and then started to try and convince me to do the same with mine. I wasn’t convinced, two people who had wanted to read it either hadn’t or didn’t like it so why the hell would anyone else want to read it? Then my true colours started to emerge; a free book by Christmas, DJ wanted the book so all I had to do was sign it wrap it and there you go Christmas sorted.
Now I have made the whole process sound easy but in fact it wasn’t and it was bloody stressful so much so that a few times the damn book nearly got launched out of the window inside the computer instead of being submitted. The text had to be formatted in a specific way with borders and troughs and some other bloody stuff I’d never heard of. Then they wanted the pages numbered on certain pages with the numbers starting on the first even page then they changed their minds and wanted it on the first odd page. If I had any hair I’d have pulled it out by now and I hadn’t even started on the cover. Now with the cover they had said if I wanted to produce my own cover this was fine or they would do one for me, eventually I decided to choose my own. Perhaps not the best option when I had no idea what a dpi was and they wanted 300 of the damn things! This is when our knight in shining armour turned up.
Anthony is publishing DJ’s fiction novel and was interested in how we were getting on with the YWO project having made it known from the outset that he was sceptical about the whole thing as in; 5000 books by Christmas, PAH! He came to our rescue by formatting the text and putting the words on the correctly sized covers. I didn’t exactly know how important the cover was to me until I got one I didn’t like and had to ask him to re-do it. The whole time he was doing this for us he was not in the best of health so we were very grateful to him for what he did. Another thing I am grateful to him for was when he formatted the pages he had to have the manuscript and while he had it he read it. He emailed me and said a few things but the upshot of it was he thought the story was good, liked it and thought I should buy an ISBN and promote it because other people would buy it and enjoy it.
So just to recap; I had written a book, five people had seen the book and out of those who expressed a preference 100% had given it the thumbs up and before the 30th October 2008 I had formatted as required and sent it in with a front and back cover. I knew it was all OK because I’d had an email confirming as much. Or was it!
Now, how soon before Christmas was ‘in time’ for Christmas? We weren’t exactly sure but by early December we were starting to get worried, DJ because I’d convinced her to have a double book launch or maybe it was the other way around and me because what the hell was I going to do for her Christmas present now? We weren’t the only people worried, YWO had a forum where people were asking awkward questions like; where is my book and will it be ready by Christmas as you promised. YWO kept saying not to worry and everything would be fine and as if to prove the fact a few books started to appear. Not enough though to satisfy the 4000 odd people still waiting and the forum started getting a bit nasty with YWO eventually pointing people to a clause in the contract which said that books wouldn’t be guaranteed by Christmas. When this inflamed the sub 5000 more they shut down the forum ‘until after Christmas’ it still isn’t up and running.
I didn’t have my book by Christmas, I didn’t have it by the New Year and on the 15th January, mainly due to DJ’s persistence I got an email saying they had bumped my book up the queue and they would try their best to get it to me in time for the launch. Now I don’t mind they didn’t do the book in time, it was a large project unlike anything they had undertaken before. What I did mind was they mislead us and when they knew they weren’t going to be able to fulfil their side of the bargain why didn’t they hold up their hand and say “my bad!” instead of quoting the contract and being heavy handed by shutting down the forum?
The books arrived on Wednesday 21st January and luckily I was home to take them in and here they are. I’m really not sure what we would have done without them?


Carol and Chris said...

Blimey, that sounds very very stressful!!! I always think it's much better to hold your hands up and say 'OK, I mucked up' rather than get all officious about it...shame on your publishers!!

I'm glad you persevered....Fart lighting will only get you so far!! Seriously, I loved the excerpt you read and was completely hooked (so was everyone else I spoke to!!).

Here's to the next one :-)

C x

Lady in red said...

As you know I enjoyed reading the chapters you were posting on your book blog and now I am enjoying reading the finished article.

We are lucky that we have DJ there to keep on at you to perservere. I think I need some one to keep kicking me up the arse to perservere with my writing.

Glad it turned out alright on the night

Troy said...

It was great to meet you at the book launch. It is not often I meet real life authors, well apart from my hot date with JK Rowling (or no wait, that was just a dream), and I'm now about two thirds of the way through your book and enjoying it more with each passing page(which I think is a good sign). It's interesting to hear the background to how the book got to printed.

nitebyrd said...

I've gone ahead and ordered my book from The Book Depository. They kindly ship free to the US and although I have no clue as to how much this book will cost me (it was done in pounds) I'm sure it will be worth every penny!

Chopper said...

CandC; It was very stressful sometimes. Don't you have a burning desire to light your farts?

LinR; I'm glad you are enjoying the book. As you can see you very nearly didn't get it!

T; It was good to meet you too and I'm glad you are enjoying the book.

N; Thanks for ordering the book and I hope you like it. It might be a bit of a bargin as you get a lot more pounds for your dollar at the moment!!

Aunty Vixs said...

I am SO sorry that you gave me your book to read and I only got as far as about the fourth page and then my man moved in and I haven't had time to read anything since! My bad Chopper.......what I have read was great and I am going to finish it soon I promise....