Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Final Revisions?

Today I made the following changes to my book:
  • I changed the word guff to bunk (guff already used once)
  • I referred to a novel by Audrey Niffenegger instead of Tibor Fischer (as he gets a mention earlier)
And that's that. Revisions done. I'm not changing another word of my novel, The World According to Boring John until/unless a publisher/editor asks me to do so.

So I will ignore the fact that I'm not sure about how I've numbered my chapters (apart from the first chapter, of course!). And the fact that I think there may still be too many repetitions AND - worse still! - that parts of the novel just aren't funny enough.

All of these things will just have to remain as they are. Enough is enough. It's the end of the year, and time for a rest. And in 2009 I want to start a second (more normal) novel. And I will.

Merry Christmas everyone

PS If you would like to see what all the fuss has been about these last couple of years, you can download an ebook version of my novel here. (You'll need a password, though. But I'm sure if you ask Boring John nicely enough, that he'll send it to you.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Revisions... "I can't stands it no more!"

I've nearly finished re-reading the latest draft of The World According to Boring John. And I must say it's been very draining. I think I've got comma blindness, actually. I'm either adding commas, removing semi-colons, changing colons to em-dashes or undoing such changes I made the last time I looked at a piece of prose. Or I find one word appearing again, either too soon or it's such a word that should only make a single entrance/exit... Oh my, will this revision process never end!

Perhaps I am remembering something Nick Daws once wrote in his Write Quickly ebook about revision. He basically said if it's seven out of ten good enough then leave it alone. I'm trying to create word-perfect when I really don't have the skills or experience to do so.

A few days ago I thought the chapters were starting to sag. Whilst today I think the best chapter (now split into two) - I coulda Been a Contender - is a little bit long, and not funny enough.

Wow, it really is tough trying to modify detail whilst keeping an eye of the big picture too.

I think - and I'm not sure if this an admission of failure or success, here - that I'm just going to have to finish my final revision with the thought that this is the best I can do! And leave it at that.

Otherwise, there will never be time to write my second novel.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Final corrections?

I've just finished another revision of The World According to Boring John. Finished it yesterday. I'm pleased about this, but also somewhat dismayed when I had thought the book was completed in January. And I have no doubt I'll find some 'mistakes', or something not quite right, when I reread the book again in a couple of weeks. Hmm, when will it ever end? (I certainly don't want to be making nit-picking changes ad infinitum, that's for sure.)

Anyway, the corrections I'm going to be making today include going through the manuscript looking for certain phrases. I want to make sure that they are necessary in each case they occur. And those phrases? Well, they include such gems as...
  • 'this book', 'this', 'this thing' etc. (should it be in italics or not?)
  • 'sucks' (should I use this word quite so often?)
  • 'contractual agreement' versus 'contractual arrangement' (look for the word, 'contract')
  • 'see' versus 'y'see' versus 'you see'
  • Do I need all of my heehees and hehehs?
  • 'Ya' versus 'you'
And, after reading the briefest of a piece about Kurt Vonnegut and his dislike of the semi-colon, I want to review all of my semi-colons - most of which are probably used incorrectly, alas. (Oh to have gone to a grammar school when I was a child!)

Okay, best crack on with it, then!...

PS Down to a wordcount of 69, 360 words

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Further Edits

Hmm, I am making further edits to the book. These include little tweaks here and there - changes in punctuation, sentences that don't work - but it also includes removing large portions of text (in some cases nearly a whole chapter).

Alas, I think I could edit this manuscript for ever and find a slightly different way of saying something. But that is not going to happen. I'm half-way through editing and will do one last full read-through after that. And then that will be that.

I got book #2 to write

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Last Rewrite?

I'm hoping that today is the beginning of my last rewrite of The World According to Boring John.

It needs a rewrite, for sure. I read two sample chapters and whilst I was happy with the Dear Zadie chapter (very happy), I was not happy at all with another chapter, The Man Who Loved Making Lists. (It was too long, and it didn't 'work' - well enough, anyway.)

I then decided to re-read the full manuscript - some 8 months after last working on it. Verdict: an enjoyable read, with lots of good bits, but the middle section sagged.

So I now have a few notes, from myself and from some published authors to process. Bill Broady, Jill McNeill and Kate Long all gave me some useful feedback on the chapters that they read. It's up to me to see how much (if at all) I agree with their comments (removing all the "hee hee's" is going to be a bit tedious, for a start - but maybe it's necessary).

I also think I'm going to begin rewriting near the middle of the manuscript on a chapter I'm fairly happy with, before I have to get my teeth into the chapter that needs most work. :-O And then I can progress through the book from that chapter onwards, in order, and finish my rewriting efforts on chapters I'm happier with near the start of the manuscript. (Otherwise I feel I might end up with a polished beginning and an unpolished end. And that sounds painful, as Boring John might say.)

But before all that can begin (tomorrow) I have to organise my writing space, tidy my notes, find my various critiques etc. Yes, it sounds like more procrastinating I know but tomorrow will be different.

Arvon Course #2

Little bit late adding this blog post, as I went on my second Arvon Foundation creative writing course between August 11th and August 16th. However, write it I shall. (I should really be starting a final rewrite of The World According to Boring John - again! - hence this blog update, first. Ah, procrastination...)

So, the course was tutored by Bill Broady and Jean McNeil, both of whom have had several novels published and both of whom demonstrated a good deal of knowledge (and love) for writing. The course was titled (I think) Where Do I Go From Here? but it was quite similar, alas, to the Starting to Write course I did in Oct 2006.

Still, I got enough ideas about where to go from here - enough inspiration - to determine that I needed to rewrite my first novel, at least one more time, and to decide what my second novel is going to be about (and when I shall start to write it: January, 2009).

What did I learn at Arvon?

Well I learnt that I should read more. And I should write what I want to read. (Hurrah, for that one!) And I should write more, too.

I also discovered that Stephen May, the soon-to-be-departing Centre Director at Arvon Lumb Bank, had not only taken a Masters in Creative Writing, recently, but by successfully finishing it he'd also managed to write and get published his very first novel, called Tag. This gave me food for thought, indeed. Maybe I should also do the Masters thing to get my novel published - I've certainly got the spare time to do so. (Stephen had also written a book about Creative Writing so I may well be comparing apples with pears with that assumption.)

What did I want to learn at Arvon, this time?

I didn't want this Arvon experience to be about writing, per se; I wanted it to be about 'being a writer'. So I didn't do any creative writing apart from the morning exercises, some of which I was reluctant to do as they didn't 'fit' with my 'current writing style' (and some of which inspired me to think of a good idea for a second novel - so it just goes to show you that writing prejudices aren't that useful).

I actually wanted to know the answers to questions, if truth be told, questions (to tutors) like these:
  1. Where do you get your ideas from?
    (Actually, I'm not that bothered about this answer as everyone's creative process is different. I trust my own process. And ideas, not acted upon, are pretty worthless anyway.)

  2. Do you think my ideas are valid?
    (This was an important question before I went on the course, but it isn't now. Ideas either work or they don't. My first idea for a novel may not work (I think it does) but I've learned a lot from having the balls to go with it until the last line.)

  3. Do you use the writing exercises we do on an Arvon course to help you write a novel?
    (Answer, most likely, is no. Interestingly, Bill Broady said that he would never let anyone except a few trusted individuals look at his work in progress, as a writer. And I am exactly the same with that. Arvon encourages this, though, and many students seem to value this professional feedback. It horrifies me, though, for anyone but me (or Boring John, obviously) to get to murder my little darlings. Lol.)

  4. Do you like being a writer or would you rather it never happened?
    (Alas I never did manage to ask this question. But it still feels a valid question.)

  5. Can an author write about himself and it not be autobiography or memoir; can it be fiction?
    (I now think that authors do nothing but write about themselves; I think it disingenuous to think otherwise.)

  6. Are there really no rules to writing?
    (Answer: yes, as long as you realise that the real answer is no!)

  7. Do you write what's inside of you or do you write what will sell?
    (This was one of the few questions that the tutors answered, actually. Bill Broady encouraged us all to be true to our writing selves and to write what was inside of us, and then he went on to slag off some Scottish chappy writer (I shouldn't name him) who Bill thought had done the very opposite after a brilliant first novel.

  8. How much time do you spend learning about writing? And isn't the best way to learn how to write, to write?
    (Both Bill and Jean are self-taught writers. Say no more.)

  9. Do you ever quit reading novels? I do! (Sorry Bill*.)
    (This question was not answered satisfactorily. Or perhaps I didn't quite know what the real question was.)

  10. How many novels do you read per year?
    (Answer: MUCH more than me. Lol.)

  11. Do you think it's useful to write short stories?
    (Answer: of course. Trouble is: I don't.)
I didn't ask most of the questions above; I forgot. But some questions were answered anyway, and some answers I discovered for myself.


Yes, it was another great Arvon experience, and I managed to get an idea for a second novel (titled: You Only Die Twice), but I don't think I shall do Arvon again. (Unless I discover that Arvon Lumb Bank is the only place I can come up with ideas for novels. Lol.)


(*) I failed to read Bill Broady's Eternity is Temporary (reading only 30 pages or so). The reason: I wasn't interested in reading about punk rock or homes for the elderly.

The thing is, after writing The World According to Boring John, I only seem interested in reading fiction that isn't just 'good fiction' - it has to be 'different' or it has to be definitive. For example, I can happily read The Old Man and The Sea or Of Mice and Men as these books are almost faultless (as well as short); I can read Happiness(TM) as it's a book about self-help (an interest of mine); or I can read Finding Myself because it's 'odd'.

But I can't read Eternity is Temporary nor can I read Laurie Lee's As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning or many, many other books (Do I have a problem? Lol.) No, it has to be 'odd' or faultless or spiritually provocative (e.g. The Alchemist) otherwise it's in the bin. Sorry, Bill. (You see, I really do need to read more, to become a better reader.)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

25-word Descriptions (and less)

I had some success writing about my book in less than 25 words. (Though you may well disagree.) And I managed to come up with some straplines too.

So, in no particular order (I think!), here are the straplines followed by the 25-word descriptions of The World According to Boring John. (This is in response to this one-sentence book description post I made a while back.)


Lad-lit without the bombs and boobs

"It's a novel Jim, but not as we know it!"

Move over Clarkson, there's a new moaner in town!

Life, the universe and everything (except Jeremy Clarkson!)

A monologue about 'life', when all he really wanted was a roll with a James Bond girl.

25-Word Descriptions

Monologue on 'life, the universe, everything' by a character who'd much rather be in a James Bond novel. So he starts changing his lines...

How I wrote my first novel, as narrated by a character who'd much rather have starred in a James Bond novel.

Journeyman character doesn't think much to his monologue routine. So he decides to hijack his first starring role by changing his lines, slowly at first...

His monologue awaits; but he'd rather star in a James Bond novel. So Boring John tries to get his writer to quit - gently, at first...

Contractually committed to the project, Boring John doubts his writer is up to the job. So he decides to change his lines - slowly, at first...

Haunted by one too many blank pages, the main character decides to end things the only way contractually allowed - by getting his writer to quit.

Fearful of the demands of the word-count, Boring John decides to end things the only way contractually allowed - by getting his writer to quit.

Disillusioned with how his first starring role is shaping up, Boring John decides to hijack the project and get his writer to quit.

His first ever leading role, but he disagrees with the book's premise. So the protagonist attempts to use it to get his writer to quit.

Ignoring nearly all the rules of writing, a writer sets out to prove his premise. Boring John disagrees and tries to stop him

Unhappy with his 'life, the universe and everything' monologue, Boring John decides to moan about his writer instead - to try to get him to quit.

"And that's how two characters should dance together in life" is fine. The battle is on between writer and protagonist for what *else* gets said.

Determined to exorcise the demons of the blank page, a first-time writer struggles to boost the word-count in this monologue about life, the universe, everything.

The world's first 'how I wrote this novel' as voiced by a reluctant, increasingly petulant main character who'd much rather be in a James Bond book.

Nothing more than a monologue on life, the universe, everything - without Clarkson - by a character who'd much rather be in a James Bond novel instead?


Note: you can read the synopsis I just sent to Capel and Land here (watch out for Boring John, though!).

Thursday, July 10, 2008

78 Reasons...

78 Reasons Why Your Book May Never Be Published & 14 Reasons Why It Just Might

This book, written by Pat Walsh, does what it says on the tin, and I'm not going to review the book here! I just want to say (to Pat if he's reading) that I really enjoyed reading the book - yes, there's bluntness, but there's sneaky bits of humour too (yes, dear reader, I laughed out loud a couple of times). And, of course, there is much sound advice about getting your novel (or work of non-fiction) published.

So, to Pat: "Thanks. Your 78 Reasons book did not put me off. If anything, it encouraged me to keep on doing everything necessary so that I (eventually) become a published author."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Similar Books - A List...

Okay, I'm going to use as part of my research tool to find publishers that might want to publish, The World According to Boring John. I'm going to find similar books. Not possible, on one level, as WATBJ is completely unique (ha ha, how many writers say that about their books! lol), but possible on another level as I'm simply looking for weird.

(EDIT: Another research tool that does a similar thing is What Should I Read Next? which tells you what to read next based on the last book you've just read. It suggested The End of Mr Y based on Raw Shark Texts, for example.)

Here's the list of possible similar books:

  1. The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas (PopCo also.)

    this review on Amazon, "the end product is contrived, forced, try-hard, boring, pretentious nonsense" and the fact that a variety of non-fiction themes play an important role

    Not that I'm into pretentious (moi?) but it's a good enough way to describe WATBJ, I guess. :-(

  2. Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall

    Reason: my friend (a writer) said it was weird and I would like it (and she's read a bit of WATBJ). Also, this review on Amazon has some resonances with WATBJ, "If postmodern literature has degengerated from behemoths, true greats, like Money by Martin Amis, to this, constantly referring to OTHER things, then where, I ask you, will greatness spring forth again?"

  3. Money: A Suicide Note by Martin Amis (London Fields is definitely not similar!)

    Reason: postmodern monologue (apparently) which is exactly what WATBJ is. Shame I'm not as clever and gifted a writer as Mr Amis, eh! Hmm.

  4. Emotionally Weird by Kate Atkinson (Behind the Scenes at the Museum also)

    Reason: Amazon reviewers claim it to 'experimental writing'. It includes "for reasons of padding, excerpts from [the character's] monumentally bad writing". Hmm, sounds familiar. I like this from one reviewer too, "In her latest book Kate Atkinson's teases the reader, backtracking and rewriting the plot, killing and resurrecting characters, indulging in word games and supplying her own ongoing critique." How funny.

  5. The Atrocity Exhibition by JG Ballard

    Reason: Hmm, not too sure. Lol

  6. Glass Soup by Jonathan Carroll

    Reason: No real reason, actually - it just looks an interesting ('magical') book.

  7. The Man in My Basement by Walter Mosley

    Reason: I like this comment from one Amazon reviewer: "I heartily recommend this book to those who enjoy novels that explore moral questions in challenging ways". Not that Boring John does this, but I'd like my next books to do so

  8. Finding Myself by Toby Litt

    Reason: Well any book that where a reviewer says this, "Nothing happens and yet still its good" has to get the Boring John vote! Lol And this comment from another reviewer, "...succeeds in commenting constantly upon its own structure while hardly ever becoming tiresomely self-referential" means that Finding Myself is my #1 pick, so far!

    Note to self: published as Lad Lit by Penguin Books Ltd!

    VERDICT: Toby's book is (to me) metafictional chick-lit. I loved all the cross-outs and references to writing, and readers, and being a writer, but it was still - alas! - chick lit. I CAN see lots of similarities to what the book represents to Toby. It feels like Toby is reflecting on how an author, namely Toby Litt, would write a 6th novel. Toby comes up with a writer-character called Victoria About, an idea for a 6th novel in synopsis form, and the mostly unedited manuscript of how that book idea turned out. That is Finding Myself.

    Whilst Boring John is me reflecting on how I would write a first novel, with all the non-twists and turns, and all the pressures on a first time writer getting to grips with the main character, etc.

    YES I shall be contacting Toby Litt today about my novel.
    (Sun 8th, Feb - 11.46 Barcelona, Spain time.)

  9. Only as Good as Your Word: Writing Lessons from My Favorite Literary Gurus by Susan Shapiro

    Reason: This is a memoir about writing and 'life' and the relationship between the two. Tenuous really, I guess, but Boring John certainly discusses that relationship too.

  10. The Contortionist's Handbook by Craig Clevenger

    Reason: Well Pat Walsh said this (in his 78 Reasons book about getting published) of Craig, "He wanted to write the first in a new branch of literature... His task entailed incorporating the tenets governing his influences while telling his story in a way no other story’s been told before..." Sounds interesting indeed, though the Amazon reviewers indicate a more 'normal' book than that, other than what was said here by someone who didn't like the it: "All style, no substance... nothing actually happens!" Hmmm.

    VERDICT: Well I guess nothing much does happen. I guess Craig tells a story in a way no other story's been told before (maybe). And it is an impressive first novel but it's not the sort of book I want (or am able) to write. Sorry, Johnny!

    So that means... NOT relevant to Boring John
    (Feb 8th, 2009)

  11. Broken by Karin Fossum (Harvill Seeker.)

    Reason: Taken from the synopsis at Amazon, "A woman wakes one night to find that a strange man has walked into her bedroom... The woman is an author and the man one of her prospective characters." And, then this from an Amazon review, "By letting the character talk to the author, and therefore the reader, off stage as it were, it in a way lets the reader into the process more than usual too".

    Fossum's book discusses a similar theme to Boring John, too, "how anxiety prevents one becoming fully human and good." I suspect she's done a better job than me (oops!) - well Broken has a story for one thing, lol - but I am still encouraged.

    Also, it's in the tradition of Auster(*) and Calvino(**) too, but I have absolutely no idea what that means lol. Still, I'm going to make this my #2 book.

    (*) Okay, okay I am going to read Paul Auster's The New York Trilogy: "City of Glass", "Ghosts" and "Locked Room" written ages ago. Who knew all this 'author appearing as character commenting on plot' stuff was so common! Lol
    (**) And, okay, I am going to read Italo C If on a Winter's Night a Traveller
    Satisfied? Lol.

  12. If on a Winter's Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino

    If you're expecting me to describe this amazingly original and inventive book here, then you can forget it. It's definitely metafiction. It's definitely about writing and reading and being read (to a degree). And it's definitely about words - really well-written words. If this book is not a masterpiece then I don't know what is.

    VERDICT: This is SOoooooooo what Boring John is all about (and soooooooo much better written and inciteful and... - bloody Calvino is the greatest Italian writer in the 20th century, for goodness sake). Fantastic. Brilliant. And far, far, far too clever

    CAN'T contact IC about BJ though as he is RIP
    (Feb 8th, 2009)

  13. The Music of Chance by Paul Auster
    Read this. Didn't feel like experimental writing at all. Felt a bit like the journey experienced by Herman Hesse's Siddharta, though more as parable. Enjoyed it. But not sure why Auster wrote it. But maybe this is because I'm still learning about why writers write. To me, though, it felt right a really good example of creative writing - but it said nothing to me. Anyway...

    (Feb 8th, 2009)

  14. Book 14 follows soon (I hope)

(If I can find ten to twenty books then I'll be laughing.)

One-sentence Book Description

I subscribe to various writing newsletters, and - more out of procrastination than anything else - I decided to go through the months and months of backlogs to see if I could find anything that would help me with my current publishing quest, namely how to find the right publisher that might want to publish my book.

Anyway, I did not get much joy and I think I will use Amazon as my research tool and rely on my own brain for a while (sure it will be good for me), but I did read something very interesting written by Randy Ingermanson, a published author.

Basically, he wanted to know if I could describe my book in one sentence. And the thing is, I can't - I really can't.

And that's bad news for me getting my book published, as you'll see below in Randy's piece (published with permission, naturally) called, The World's Scariest Question.

The good news is that it's a great writing opportunity for me - this writing a one-sentence description. It should help me get my book published, too. And if it allows me to answer the world's scariest question, even better!

Over to Randy (a North American)...

The World's Scariest Question
by published, award-winning author Randy Ingermanson ("the Snowflake guy")

Someday you'll be signing autographs for your novel at
a Wal-Mart. A woman will wander past hauling three
desperate-looking kids. She'll ask you where the
bathroom is.

You won't have any idea, but you'll helpfully point in
a random direction.

She'll hurry off with the brats in tow. Ten minutes
later, she'll be back, having solved the immediate
problem. She'll thank you for being helpful. Then
she'll ask The World's Scariest Question:

"So," she'll say as she picks up your novel. "What's
your book about?"

If you're a novelist, you can expect to answer this
question about 500 times for each book you write.

You must have an answer to this question, because it's
the difference between a sale and a pair of glazed eyes.

First, let me give you the wrong answer: "Well, see,
there's this guy. And he works for the government and
he's got a girlfriend. The girlfriend is mad at him for
leaving Cheezits in his socks. Oh yeah, and his boss
is, like, really mean. And one of his co-workers is
doing pretty bad stuff, and he's just about to figure
out what it is, when his girlfriend kicks him
out--because of the Cheezits--and then, um, where was

The correct answer is one like this: "My novel is about
a Pentagon worker who blows the whistle on his boss for
taking kickbacks from the President's cousin."

Or whatever your novel is about.

You must, you must, you MUST have an answer to this
question. Your answer must be one sentence with as few
words as possible. It must capture the flavor of your
book. And you must memorize it.

Why all those "musts?" Because this "One-Sentence
Summary" is the selling tool you will use for the
entire life-cycle of your book, from the first gleam in
the editor's eye until the last pitiful signing in

Remember that your book has to be sold about 7 times in
order to be a commercial success:

* You sell the idea to your editor.
* Your editor sells the idea to the in-house committee
* Your editor sells the idea to the sales force
* The sales force sells the idea to bookstore buyers
* The buyers sell the idea to bookstore sales staff
* The sales staff sell the book to readers
* Your readers sell the idea to their friends

If any of those links in the chain fail, then your book
will either never make it to market or it won't sell

Let's be clear here: The selling tool that greases the
skids on EACH link in the selling chain is your
One-Sentence Summary.

You'll use your One-Sentence Summary when you (or your
agent) pitches the idea to your editor.

Your editor will use it when she presents your book to
the publishing committee (if the editor doesn't have
the authority to buy a book).

Your editor will use your One-Sentence Summary again
when the sales conference rolls around and she needs to
get the sales team excited about your novel.

The sales team has maybe 30 seconds per book when they
present books to buyers for the bookstores. That's
enough time for your One-Sentence Summary plus a bit

And on and on it goes, with your One-Sentence Summary
the tasty first bite all the way down the selling

The last step in the selling chain is the most critical
-- when your readers love your book and want to get
their friends to buy it too. Everyone knows that
word-of-mouth is the most powerful force in the
universe for selling books. A One-Sentence Summary is a
tool that your readers can use to tell their friends
about you. But they can only do that if they HAVE a
good One-Sentence Summary.

Who's going to give it to them? Trust me, your readers
don't have a degree in marketing. They won't spend
hours figuring out your One-Sentence Summary. They need
for you to give it to them. You do that by giving it to
your editor, who will make sure that it gets into the
marketing copy.

What if you don't bother? Isn't it your marketing
team's job to figure out how to sell your book?

Yes, of course it's their job. But nobody loves your
baby like you do. Your marketing team may have 10 or
100 other babies to deal with. You only have the one.
And you know your baby.

The simple fact is that if you don't come up with a
compelling One-Sentence Summary, then somebody
somewhere will come up with one anyway. But it most
likely won't be the one you want. And once the
marketing team comes up with a concept they like, they
don't appreciate you horning in to do their job.

So if you want to do their job, you need to do it
BEFORE they get their hands on it. You need to give
them something so powerful that they wouldn't dream of
changing it.

We've been discussing the One-Sentence Summary on my
blog recently and I challenged my loyal blog readers to
post their best shot. Around 60 of them did, and I've
been critiquing them one by one.

I've asked one of my blog readers for permission to
show his One-Sentence Summary here, along with my
critique and my attempt to improve it, along with his
final version.

Thanks to Livinus Nosike for giving permission. He has
requested, of course, that nobody should steal his
idea. I'll discuss in a minute why this is unlikely.

Here's what Livinus posted:

"African most endearing young researcher steals a
secret manuscript, dating the time of the Algerian
revolution against French occupation, to track down the
leader of a weird anti-western civilisation movement
and win the $120m reward the US is offering, little
knowing who was behind the offer of his research grant
and why."

Livinus noted in his post that he knew this was too
long, but he wanted me to tighten it up so we can all
learn from it.

Here's my critique of his One-Sentence Summary:

Randy sez: Yes, this is way long. There are some nice
points to it, but I count 53 words and 5 distinct plot
ideas. That is about 40 words and 4 plot ideas too

What's good here? Lots. For starters, we have a fairly
unique character (at least to US readers), a "young
African researcher." I'd be interested to know what
kind of researcher. Livinus knows, but I don't, so I'm
going to supply a possible specific example out of
many. I'm going to make him a political scientist, for
no good reason, just because.

So now we've got a lead character: "A young African
political scientist".

Good, what's next? Well, we've got way too many plot
threads here, so let's trim. What's the most important
thing going on here? This researcher is pursuing
Somebody Bad. Let's trim up the description of that
Somebody. There are a lot of choices, but I'm going to
use "shadowy anti-Western militant". That has some good
hypey words in it, familiar to everybody who reads this
genre, which is "spooky conspiracy suspense novel".

OK, so we've got a Good Guy and a Bad Guy. Now let's
add a verb and a motive.

The verb is easy: "tracks". The other possible
alternative is "pursues". Both of them are good, strong
verbs. Both are overused, but in this genre, we aren't
LOOKING for new verbs. We're looking for explosions,
car chases, and secrets. Livinus will deliver those, we

The motive is also easy: "$120 million." Yeah, that
gets most people's attention. There was a study once
that showed that the average person would be willing to
kill a stranger for less than $10 million. So $120 Big
Boys will motivate our researcher Good Guy.

Let's put all this together and see what we've got so

"A young African political scientist tracks a shadowy
anti-Western militant for a $120 million reward."

We've now got 16 words, 2 characters, 1 plot, and we're
almost there. I'd say to make "African" more specific.
This is up to Livinus, who actually knows the story.
What kind of African do we have here? Nigerian?
Ghanaian? Zimbabwean? South African? Being specific
says that you have done your research. It tells people
that you know something about one particular culture
within Africa. It says that you know something about
political science (or whatever the specialty of your

When you use vague words, it sounds like you're just
pulling stuff out of your ear. For that matter, it
might be nice to get a little more specific about that
Bad Guy. Islamic Bad Guys have been overdone lately, so
what do we have left? I'm not sure, but I'll bet
Livinus knows. Let's see a 2 or 3 word description of a
Bad Guy who hasn't been done. That would get any
editor's attention.

After reading this, Livinus sharpened it up to:

"A young Nigerian environmental scientist tracks a
shadowy anti-Western militant for a $120 million

This is more compelling because (as I discovered by
tracking back Livinus on my blog) he is a Nigerian
geoscientist. So he is writing what he knows.

Writing what you know, by the way, is your best defense
against people who want to "steal your idea." Suppose I
decided to steal this idea from Livinus and run with
it. Could I do that?

Maybe, but not very well. I know almost nothing about
Nigeria, so I'd need to do a boatload of research. But
no matter how much research I did, I'd know in my gut
that I'm still way behind Livinus. And I already have a
ton of book ideas of my own. I'd be crazy to steal his
idea. So would you. So would anyone except someone very
much like Livinus.

Final comments: I would still like to see that
"anti-Western militant" sharpened up a bit also. At
that point, Livinus would have himself a very decent
pitch. A One-Sentence Summary will get him to first
base with editors who like this kind of novel. Whether
Livinus can advance to second base will depend on how
well he writes.

That's the point of a One-Sentence Summary: It gets you
to first base. After that, you still need to score, and
you do that with excellent writing. But you'll never
score at all if you don't make it to first base.


Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the
Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing
E-zine, with more than 11,000 readers, every month. If
you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction,
AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND
have FUN doing it, visit .

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing
and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.

My First Acceptance

Not long after I received my first rejection letter from a publisher I got my first acceptance, from Athena Press.

Wow! That was a special feeling indeed. Athena Press were going to publish my book. Bluemoose Books could go stuff themselves, Athena Press were going to publish it! Whoohooh!

It seemed a bit easy this publishing lark, and the report on my book (Athena had asked me to send the whole manuscript to them, for a reader to write a report) was flattering but mostly irrelevant to the book I'd written, but still I was buzzing, until...

Until I read that Athena Press would want me to pay £4000 - 4 x £1000 (that represented the 4 phases of publishing my book) - for the privilege.

What? I have to pay them to get my book published?

A few seconds later...

Aaargh, vanity publishing, vanity publishing!

If ever Homer Simpson's D'oh was needed it was this time!

...So after some consideration - longer than you might imagine - I declined Athena Press's offer. Though the idea of my book being printed did feel very appealing, I have to tell you! £4000 is not that much money! (The poor reader who had to read Boring John and make sense of it. Hee hee. They clearly did not understand what they were reading. Oops - d'oh!)

My First Rejection

I submitted 3 chapters of my manuscript, The World According to Boring John, together with synopsis and covering letter to Bluemoose Books, quite some time ago. And, two months later (I think) I received a rejection, penned by Kevin Duffy himself. They didn't want my book! They had enough on their plate for both 2008 and 2009, apparently - fancy that!

My first rejection was a bit deflating, I have to admit, but I guess rejection gets easier each time it happens.

And I really haven't tried very hard to get my book published (as you can tell from the lack of blog posts, here). In fact, feedback from Bluemoose Books - any feedback - was welcomed.

Now all I need to work out is whether it was my book that wasn't good enough or my synopsis and covering letter...

PS I got my first acceptance letter soon after though! :-) (No, that should be :-( )

PPS And yesterday, after I read this piece by Randy Ingermarson on describing my book in one sentence, I decided to go back to the drawing board before trying to get my book published with anyone else (though I did start doing some research on Amazon)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

And, finally...

Well it's been a long time since I posted anything on this 'how to write a novel' blog. And that's mainly because of two reasons:

1) I haven't done very much in the last couple of months regarding my book - I was just glad to get it finished.

2) And when I did turn my attentions to getting my book published - writing a synopsis and a covering letter - I found the whole exercise incredibly difficult. I wrote thousands of words probably just trying to express what my book was about. And when I succeeded I found out that it wasn't the type of info. a book synopsis requires.

Anyway, I've now written my synopsis (and covering letter) and will send them to two publishers tomorrow.

Publisher 1: Bluemoose Books Ltd - this publishing company specialises in first-time writers who have something different to say, AND they're based in Hebden Bridge where the beginnings of my 'book' was first inspired. I simply have to submit my book to them.

Publisher 2: Athena Press - call it syncrhonicity if you want, but I just discovered a writer yesterday called Ha, Spirit who's motivation for writing matches my own. His first book - Letters to Myself - is not a novel, but it discusses similar issues to my book. That's good enough for me - Athena Press it is for publisher #2.

And we shall see what we shall see, as they say!

Thursday, January 24, 2008


WRITER'S LOG: Jan 24th, 2008

Yes, I've finished my final draft of my book. Yippee! And, even more importantly, I've decided I like the book again (some of the early chapters are weak, that's all).

After working on it all day every day from Monday to today - which means I didn't do any 'work' - I have finally got to the last page, more or less satisfied! And it's a great, great feeling.

I know that there's more work to be done - a little tidy here, a little tidy there - but I can knock that off in a few days, for sure! Now I have to find a publisher. That's the next job!

Anyway, to all those people who are following my progress here (haha! - that's no one, then!), I feel good. Ecstatic, even! (And also relieved). Time for a beer. And then...


Monday, January 21, 2008

WRITER'S LOG: Jan 21st, 2008

I wrote this on a scrap of paper at 4pm, today:

"My mind has gone numb today, numb to words. And I have another hour to do. Another several days revision to do, actually."

It was quite strange. After spending a whole morning and a few hours this afternoon working on the latest version of my manuscript my brain seemed to seize up, literally. It was quite discomfiting. I really feel like I'm running out of steam when it comes to making further revisions to my writing. And that's a depressing thought.

I'm also having serious doubts as to the seriousness of what I've spent a whole year working on. (This was not helped by all the errors I found in the latest draft - see below.)

Hopefully, these doubts will pass. (Today is meant to be the saddest day of the year, after all - who knows these things?) And, hopefully, the experience I've gained will help me write something serious or proper the next time.

Let's hope so.


WRITER'S LOG: Jan 18th, 2008

I can't believe how many 'errors' I'm finding in the latest draft of my book(*). It's so disheartening. I also can't believe how tiring it is to find the right words. And the last thing I can't is the fact that I can't do this - go through the manuscript, and revise - whilst sitting in this quiet library. I have to be able to read my manuscript out loud, for one thing, and I don't think I can work in a library for another.

So I'm going to stop. I'll go to Leeds early instead, I think, and find something else to do before I go to the cinema at 7.55pm - it's 2.37pm, now. (I'm off to watch the latest Coen Brothers' movie, No Country For an Old Man - hmm, how similar that title is to old man Kurt Vonnegut's last book, Man Without a Country.)

It's going to take me at least one week to revise this manuscript now, for sure, and even then it won't be done. (I'll have to check my revisions - another few days, at least.) I should have finished writing it by now, and be now looking for someone to publish. And I should be reading novels again after my self-imposed ban of not reading anything fictional since starting my book in January 2007. I so want to read some fiction, too, to get ideas for my next book.

Note to self: I MUST GET THIS BOOK FINISHED BY JAN 29, 2008! I must.

Nobody said it was going to be easy, I guess. Bloody annoying, though. Wish the first few pages weren't so awkward (and lame) but then (maybe) they have to be - first line jitters and all that. Vamos!

* I found 50 errors in the first 5 or so pages.

Monday, January 14, 2008

WRITER'S LOG: Jan 14th, 2008

"Just finished writing (and proofing) The World According to Boring John "EXTRAS" - a kind of DVD Extras edition of my main 'novel'. And it's a fabulous feeling to finally finish some part of the book that I originally started to write in January 2007.

"Admittedly, I never envisaged creating an "Extras" version of my novel in the first place - I never envisaged writing anything but a normal novel, for that matter - but that's where the creative process took me, I guess.

"I'm hoping that the "Extras" ebook (not even sure how I should refer to it) will work as both extras and sampler - the ebook really does give a flavour of the book. I'm hoping that people will download the free ebook, read it, make comments, and then be interested in reading the main book, when (if) it gets published.

"That's what I'm hoping, anyway.

"Maybe it might even help get my main book published - who knows?

"I do like the idea of a DVD Extras for books. And, in this electronic age that we live in, I really think 'book extras' will take off. (They could contain alternate endings, examples of prose before it was reworked fifty times, material that didn't make the cut, etc., And they'd always be available for free, online, to download. (Note: this is exactly how the Boring John EXTRAS 'work', by the way, both in content and how that content is delivered.) )

"I Wonder what name 'book extras' will be given, if any. Hmm, maybe The Extras Edition of [book name goes here]. We shall see."


Note: This is the first entry of the Writer's Log to appear in this Write a First Novel blog. Previous journal entries detailing my progress in writing my first book (now called The World According to Boring John) were first written on paper (all entries prior to this one, now appear in the "Extras" ebook talked about above.

The Writer's Log that I started in early 2007, some of which appears in The World According to Boring John, is the main reason why this blog has had few entries in 2007. It was just easier to write about what was happening as regards the writing of my first book with pen and paper.

The Writer's Log will probably now just blend into this blog. Maybe. Just look for items labelled Writer's Log to find out, I guess.