New Year visitor
Spider joins celebrations
Steals the spotlight
To put the title of my post into context, I want to share with you the testimonial I’ve sent to the organisers of National Novel Writing Month…
I would like to thank the NaNoWriMo Team for providing the platform for a complete turnabout in my writing and for saving me from quitting altogether.
During the first half of 2017, with five novels under my belt, I had finally accepted that for an author to cross multiple genres was tantamount to committing marketing suicide. Enough traditional publishers and literary agents had rejected my work for this reason, while at the same time complimenting me on my prose, but of course I had to learn the hard way by self-publishing a couple of the novels. The experiment wasn’t a total failure, as a small handful of people risked buying the first book and then bought the second book, too. According to their reviews, they loved my quirkiness and particular brand of British humour.
By the time I reached October of the year, I was suffering the worst case of writer’s block and disillusionment ever. Thus, when I signed up for NaNoWriMo it felt like the craziest act of faith in the world. I had never written as much as 50,000 words in a month and didn’t think I had the hours to do so; plus, I was going to attempt to write a straight science fiction novel, rather than a mishmash of about six genres rolled into one. However, twenty pages into the story I realised it wasn’t science fiction, and that it probably wasn’t in me to write anything suited to diehard fans of the genre. This amounted to a moment of profound enlightenment. What were my strengths? Answer: Quirkiness and British humour. What exactly was I writing if it wasn’t science fiction? Answer: mainstream satire that happened to be set in the not-too-distant future.
Thus with great optimism and to maintain my focus, I have signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo and set my next goal, which is to finish writing the first draft of the novel by 2nd February, after which I will don my editor’s hat and set a revision target.
Now for the bit about author names. I don’t want to dump my old novels altogether, as they have been my close companions on a long writing journey and I’m really quite fond of them. Being an eccentric means that I will always write quirky stuff, and here’s a virtual hug for my highly valued supporters who don’t care a toss about my blatant mishmashing of genres.
Thus, what I propose — unless my literary Muse dictates otherwise — is to self-publish my hard-to-categorise novels under the name of Sarah Potter, but for novels that do fit a category and might prove of interest to literary agents and traditional publishers, I will use the author name Sarah C Potter.
Meanwhile, from now until the end of January, I have on special offer my two crossover self-published novels, but more about that in the next post when I will share with you my reasons for staging a rebellion against particular price tags.
Sun cuts low through trees,
Squirrels burrow under roots,
People chase daylight.
Winter solstice then Christmas
Hibernation ~ if only ~
~National Grid alert~
Christmas stomping on the world:
an unwanted gift
their electricity bill
our indefinite future
Once crowned with a star,
it glittered in the firelight.
Last year’s Christmas tree
dumped, forgotten and homeless,
its chocolate coins melted.
Besieged on all sides,
chimneys whistle, timbers creak–
Beyond, in cardboard city,
lie papier-mâché homes.
Yay! We did it. My son Joshua and I managed to write the opening 50,000 words of our novels between November 1-30 during National Novel Writing Month 2017. This was the first time either of us had participated in NaNoWriMo, but we both felt the urge to do something that stretched us to the limit.
At one stage I was about a week behind with my word count and thought I wouldn’t make it, so had to do some mad 3,000 plus sprints per day to catch up.
Joshua managed to be more consistent in his progress but was a bit erratic in updating his word count on the NaNoWriMo website, so his final stats and graph looked a bit strange, which is why he wanted me to post mine and not his. In case you are wondering who Wolery Wol is, that is one of my online author usernames/pen-names.
My novel, which will probably end up at about 75,000 words in length, was inspired by a short story I wrote way back, titled The Parable Teller, so this is what I chose as my working title during NaNoWriMo but ir won’t end up as my final title as it is no longer suitable. This, my sixth novel, was intended as an exercise in shutting off that pedantic inner editor and recapturing that creative energy and dynamism that went with writing my first novel years ago. It worked, but doesn’t mean that I will skimp on the editing during revision 1, 2, 3, 4, or however many it takes.
When I started the novel I thought it was science fiction, but after writing the first three chapters, it dawned on me that it wasn’t science fiction but mainstream satire, which happens to be set at an unspecified time in the future (think Ben Elton meets Jonas Jonasson). In fact, it is possible that I have never written true science fiction, or true fantasy for that matter.
[Thank you, Bob Shaw for your book How to Write Science Fiction, which has been lurking on my bookshelf since 1993, and became my only reading material throughout November. It would have saved me from a lot of marketing problems, if I had read your book properly in the first place. Next on the list is Writing Fantasy Fiction by Sarah LeFanu, on my shelf since 1996].
My enlightenment has proved a liberation, as I am now free to embrace my quirkiness without the strictures of rigid genre.
My son’s novel is his first, although he has written plenty of short stories (you can read one of them here), plus he has a BA in History, English and Creative Writing. He likes to write fantasy: real fantasy, unlike his mother! His novel, which also has a working title that he intends to change, will end up much longer than mine and sounds potentially epic.
Lastly, I want to award my husband a medal for his patience and encouragement throughout November. It must be hard enough for anyone living with one NaNoWriMo maniac for a month, but to live with two, you have to be some kind of saint.
Folks, I’m disappearing off into the sunset throughout the month of November and not participating in Friday Fictioneers during that time. During my absence I’m going to attempt to write at least 50,000 words of satirical science fiction as a participant in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The novel’s working title is The Parable Teller.
This is my first attempt to write a starter draft that fast. My record is three months, following three months of research. You’ll only see me back at FF before November 30 if I flunk the challenge. Meanwhile, I hope to post once-weekly progress reports on my blog, perhaps with the occasional excerpt if I have time to edit it, as nobody gets to see my raw drafts of anything!
If any other Friday Fictioneers are participating in the madness and want to link up as a NaNoWriMo buddy, my username over there is Wolery Wol. I’ve one buddy so far, and that’s none other than Dale!
So here’s my story for this week’s Friday Fictioneers (in which the colour purple features … especially for Rochelle, of course!). And many thanks to Roger Bultot for the wonderfully picturesque photo prompt.
Word count: 100
MAGENTA AND CYAN EQUALS PURPLE, RIGHT?
“Sunsets aren’t purple.”
“The one was at teatime yesterday, Miss.”
“Viewed through a glass of blackcurrant juice, you mean?”
Robbie’s ears and cheeks burned with a mixture of embarrassment and anger.
Sophie threw him a sideways glance and started to giggle.
“What’s so funny, Sophie?” asked their art teacher.
“Robbie’s gone the colour of a proper sunset, Miss.”
He tore up his painting and stormed out of the classroom, yelling, “Everybody can eff off!” Then headed for the headmaster’s office, determined to get in the first word.
“Sir, I’m here to lodge a complaint against the curriculum. It murders imagination.”
To read other Friday Fictioneers’ stories for this week, or to add a 100-word story of your own, please click on the blue frog below.
My rating : 5 of 5 stars
The Last Dog on Earth by Adrian J Walker is a post-apocalyptic novel set in 2021. “Hell!” I hear you say. “That’s not far in the future.” As you know, things can escalate very fast, especially when it comes to politics. People become hot under the collar, extreme in their views and, in the worst-case scenario, society could collapse.
This story is told from two different viewpoints: a mongrel dog named Lineker and his owner, Reginald Hardy.
Lineker swears a lot, and some readers may not approve of this, but I thought it worked well and added rather than detracted from my enjoyment of the story. Obviously nobody knows exactly what it’s like inside a dog’s brain, but if a dog of Lineker’s personality were to use human words, then he would use the f-word and the c-word without compunction, in particular with regard to cats, squirrels, foxes, and disagreeable humans. Even though he relates his insights and his plot narration in the English language, I would not class this as an anthropomorphic exercise. He is always very much an authentic dog of huge personality. Also, I felt that the author obviously knows his dogs well; he includes a great deal of interesting background information about their relationship with humans from the earliest times, when wild dogs first became domesticated.
Reginald worked as an electrician before the apocalypse, which comes in useful for fixing his recalcitrant generator, as well as it equipping him with a skill that post-apocalyptic society can use. The trouble is, he’s a loner who can’t abide any sort of physical contact with other humans, even a quick handshake; thus, the fact that the majority of people have left London and that he has the immediate neighbourhood all to himself, is a total boon, and he’s not in a hurry to leave it, until a starving orphan girl turns up on his doorstep, refuses to leave, and then asks for his help with something that involves him having to leave his flat. Lineker and the girl bond straightaway, and so it’s two against one when it comes to the final decision about this.
What follows is an adventure to end all adventures, triggering a rollercoaster of emotions. I found myself laughing, near to tears, my stomach in knots, breathless with anticipation, and, most important of all, I really cared for the three main characters. As for the baddies, they were spit-worthy and you wanted the worst for them. At the same time, you could understand their motivation, however twisted it might seem.
A highly recommended read (except for those who belong to the anti-swearing brigade!).
[Note: There are two novels of the same title, as there are no copyright restrictions when it comes to book titles, so make sure that if you like the sound of the novel I’m reviewing, that you don’t end up ordering the other one and wonder what I’m rabbiting on about.]
And a post script for my fellow authors re marketing…
I stumbled upon this fabulous book by typing in the keywords “dog fiction” on Amazon. Quite a number of books came up, but the brilliant and rather quirky yellow and black cover to Adrian J Walker’s novel particularly caught my eye. Then I read the product description, which wowed me so much that I had to read the opening pages of the novel. After that, I was so hooked, it wouldn’t have mattered what the paperback cost; I just had to buy it. This proves that experts’ advice about selling books on Amazon is true, although not all of us have Del Ray (an Imprint of Ebury Publishing/Penguin) as our publishers)!
Then, of course, there’s the marketing ploy when you’ve got to the end of a novel, only to discover some additional pages with an excerpt from another book by the same author. Thus, I found the first thirty pages of Adrian J Walker’s novel The End of the World Running Club, which hooked me so completely that I had to order a copy of the book straight away. I’m now two-thirds of the way through reading this and will post a review in due course.