Friday, 22 June 2012

Knitting Air

I thought I’d be animating vulgarities today but, due to circumstances outside my control, I’m forced to go back to my novel earlier than I’d hoped. I wanted to leave a few months before looking at it again but life does this to me sometimes: it’s a matter of get a publisher/agent or get a job, so I’m sitting here trying to hammer some sense into 95,000 words (and about 30 illustrations) that still don’t fill me with confidence. Fixing a novel is about as easy as knitting air.

The problem with comedy writing – indeed the same can be said of cartooning – is that you’re far too close to the work to be able to laugh. Familiar with every joke, one-liner, or groaning pun, you no longer see the finished article as a sustained piece of comedy. You see it as the unstructured outpourings of your mind. Of course, I’ve asked people to read it but you can’t believe your family’s judgement. In fact, the age-old ‘my mother loved it’ is the worst thing you can tell a prospective agent, even if, as in this case, my mother loved it. The feedback I’ve received from friends has been next to minimal. One person could only manage half the book, hated chapter two, and didn’t like the name of my protagonist. That has been the sum of meaningful feedback. I don’t blame them for not reading it, not least because they have busy lives and there’s nothing worse than being obliged to read a book when you don’t normally read books. The problem with writing something as long as 90,000 is that you pity the poor buggers who you ask to help. Writing a book is as much an organic process as it is sequential. The finished article has to make sense when you read it from front to back, but discovering that sequence involves making mistakes, taking the wrong path, backtracking, and countless rewrites.

So now I sit here trying to rewrite Chapter Two, with very little sense of there being anything wrong with it, compared with the rest of the book which I wrote too recently to approach with a fresh eye.

Even if I wrote about 400,000 words for my book of spoof letters (only 60,000 made the finished book), writing that was so much easier than working on a novel, not least because feedback came 1000 words at a time.

So what am I doing writing this? I’m avoiding looking at Chapter Two. I worry about what I might find. Incidentally, if anybody comes across this blog post and does want to read my book to provide feedback, then please email me at If you sound serious, I’ll send you an epub of the book. I need all the help I can get.

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