Jonathon Dean

Writer. Human. Nerd.

Tag: Author

Well, this is embarrassing…

So my plan to post an update every Sunday didn’t exactly go to, um, plan.

Alright, so I’m only a day out, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t too bad, but still. Two weeks in and already I managed to forget to blog? Doesn’t exactly bode well for the future, right?

I’ll make my excuses now; I’ve had a busy week. I’ve been doing some subcontracting work lately, looking at survey responses from Iraqi refugee camps for Save the Children, and it’s left me a little bit drained.

There’s really only so many times you can read statements from parents talking about their children drowning in unsupervised areas of the refugee camp, or from children talking about how their family members have been killed or kidnapped by terrorist organisations, and still want to come and type out some light observations about spaceships.

It’s easy to just drop into a funk about all this – after all, it is pretty depressing that these camps not only have to exist in the first place, but the fact that so many of these personal horror stories go largely ignored makes it so much worse. Of course, we all know that these things go on, in a largely abstract sense, but to see them written up in such a clinical, emotionless way that auto-translation software delivers is an entirely different experience.

I guess the thing about fiction is that we can choose to use it as an escape from the harsh realities of life, like the refugee camps, the hunger and misery, the abuse of human life and the future and livelihoods denied to so many, or we can use it to bring these abstract horrors into sharp relief, putting characters we get to know and love into the same situations we have in real life. Ordinarily, I’d take the second route every time. This week, though? I need an escape.

What Do?

I’m torn at the moment.

I don’t seem to have any particular writing projects ongoing any more. Which means I’m antsing for a new one, which means I have to pick and develop one from the big long list in my brain, which means that actually being able to sit down with characters I know and put them on the page is kinda not really possible.

I’m also wanting to write more short fiction, since it’s been a while since I had one of those published, and I wouldn’t mind being able to have a few more pieces of my actual fiction online for you guys to read (and maybe add a new page to the site to list off my published fiction and where you can find it) – but for the moment that is quite a small amount, and I think having a tiny amount listed would probably look worse than having none listed at all.

Which means I can pretend to have had loads published, when really there’s not been a huge amount as I’ve tended to neglect the short fiction aspect of writing in recent years.

This was a cunning plan up until the point where I told you about it. Whoops.

Now, I’m not really one for reading authors’ websites. Most of my reading materials tend to come from the charity shop, as I’m not fond of reading ebooks and commercial book prices tend to get very expensive very quickly if you read quite as much as I do.

I know, I know, I’m hoping to make a living out of reading, and Kant’s Categorical Imperative would suggest that buying books almost exclusively from a charity shop isn’t great (honestly guys,  stop waving your degrees in political theory at me, mine’s already giving me dirty looks), but then there can be no ethical consumption under capitalism anyway, so this is a systemic problem and Kant can have an ethical ghostfight with Marx over it if he wants.

(Before you write in, yes I know that’s not a Marx quote, and apparently comes from the Tumblr hivemind – but I reckon Marx would have agreed with it anyway, and some ghost or other has to fight ghost-Kant, otherwise he’ll start trying to organise ectoplasm for maximum utility.)

So, as I was saying before that particular tangent, I don’t tend to read author webpages, particularly not of ones like myself who haven’t managed to attract a publisher’s eye with shiny things (agents, publishers, if you’re looking, I have some shiny things for you to look at), but it seems to me that there’s little point with no actual fiction on display. Who wants to read the blog of a writer who, as far as you can tell, hasn’t done much and isn’t very good in any case?

So short stories should be my current goal, but I can’t say I’m as fond of writing them as I am longer projects.

In any case, blog posts where I write about ghost-Kant and my own lack of committing to a new project for 500 words don’t get a new project committed to. But then, very little seems to these days.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a blank word document to stare at.

Who Invented Query Letters, Anyway?

I think if I had to go back in time and pick one thing to just never exist, it’d probably be ironing.

Alright, and the concept of social class.

And bananas.

In any case, query letters would be somewhere up there as well. Near-ish the top.

Because at this point I think I’ve spent almost as long writing, rewriting, redrafting, researching and junking the query letter for The Twist than I spent writing the novel in the first place. I know there’s some arcane formula for the perfect query letter out there (that may actually be what the Voynich Manuscript is), but there’s just no straightforward way to twist my brain around that formula.

The difficulty, clearly, is that there’s very little to actually go on, and to judge your own query letter against. I know what a good book reads like, because I’ve read (almost certainly) thousands of books in my lifetime. By contrast, I’ve read maybe a few hundred query letters – and those are mostly drafts or rejects over on QueryShark. While QueryShark does a great job of pointing out flaws and going over what to do and not to do, it’s still not even close to wiring my brain up in the right way to be able to see what does and doesn’t work, and to instinctively know what a good query letter looks like.

Which is all, of course, compounded by the fact that there are limited chances to actually submit it once it’s been agonised over.

Still, we keep at it.

 

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