Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Rant, Pant, & Marketing

I started to write a post the other morning that was very rude about people who compiled lists. You know the sort – Twenty-Three Ways to Wash Behind Your Ears. They irritate me because they are a gimmick much beloved by direct marketers. The number is a lie. It infers a precision to what is about to be revealed. Everything you need to know is here, it promises; we know because we counted.

I don’t like lists. Unfortunately, they work or they wouldn’t be so out and about and counting the number of steps it takes for them to get to work. Forty-Nine Steps: All You Need to Get to Work.
What bought on my early morning, it’s too early for me to be polite, it’s about time someone said something about this, rant was the imminent completion of my book, Only the Gulls are Content.

It’s going to need marketing. Read Julie Korzenko’s article on the How Publishing Really Works blog. (At some stage, I shall have to tell Julie how advertising really works. To quote: ‘You’re telling a friend about a commercial you like, and when they ask, “What company was that for?” you say, “I don’t know. I can’t remember.”’ – How many times did I hear that when a copywriter? I shall have to count.)

That small gripe aside, she makes many sensible points that we wannabes will need to address sooner or later.

The most inventive and relevant piece of marketing I have seen has been for Caroline Smaile’s works. First came the map thingy for In Search of Adam, then the pure genius of The Black Boxes gizmo. I would like to claim credit for the latter but Gary might come to Brighton and slap me with a wet fish. (A short anecdote: a mediocre copywriter, a colleague in the same agency I was then working for, stuck a commercial for Cadbury’s Amazin chocolate bar – directed by Ridley Scott; slogan: It’s Amazin What Raisins Can Do – on his showreel. When challenged, he, having had nothing to with anything, defended himself by saying, “Well, I was in the room at the time,” i.e. the time when someone else came up with the slogan. On that basis, I believe I can take credit for the Black Boxes gizmo having been in the same country at the time, the design of Concorde and Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.)

So back to challenge of marketing Only the Gulls are Content; as Julie highlights, repetition is important. (I trust you understand I am talking about my book, Only the Gulls are Content.) Presently, I am doing the strategic bit of defining what needs to be done. Long experience teaches me the more time devoted to this phase, the one of stapling down precisely, without numbers, the potential audience, the reasons why my product might appeal and how I may reach them, in other words, the tighter I make my brief, the more creative will be the solution. (Ball-crushingly obvious, but one that may make one squeak on a more piercing octave.)

I have a feel for what might be a good idea. I sense it drifting on the wind far above my head, much like a gull - now I come to think of it, much like a gull as in Only the Gulls are Content.

The process brings back memories of my youth when I could smell a good idea but knew to reach out and grasp it prematurely would be to crush the butterfly. A good idea needs to be allowed time to alight before being snared.

This is not the idea, and maybe something I will do anyway, but I am thinking of giving away a limited edition of the finished drawing, of which these doodles are the inspiration, with the original as first prize.Gulls and bondage: spooky, but not half as spooky as the finished work will be. It will be full figure and something to frighten the grandchildren with. But don't be spooked, there is no bondage in Only the Gulls are Content. It is a pastoral novel of love, romance, sweaty palms and long sighs - all in full view of the governess.

Amy! Katie! Grandpa's coming! x

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Pant, Pant, Pant

The end of the first draft is a mere weekend's writing away - unfortunately not next weekend as I am busy with guests and fings. Nonetheless a weekend and maybe, possibly, perhaps, it will be finished in the intervening days.

Today is Amy's birthday. Four years old! Happy Birthday, Amy.

(St. George's day, Shakespeare's birthday - and the day he died, but let's not dwell on that.)

Thursday, 16 April 2009


I am not a great football fan in the sense of one who sways with scarf extended between hands in the stands singing songs badly out of tune. That said, I do enjoy a good game and the match the night before last between Liverpool and Chelsea was one of the best. It was skillful, passionate and respectful with the added bonus of eight goals. My son-in-law, a Chelsea fan, is happy. (I was secretly rooting for Liverpool.)

I went to London over Easter to see my girls and granddaughters. Amy had no insult to hurl at me this time, but young Katie seems to have taken a shine to me as evidenced by this photograph taken on Sunday when the family was assembled at Sue-ex and Richard's for lunch.

Finally, a doodle.

Finally, finally, 1,000 words written yesterday between two shifts at work.

Friday, 10 April 2009

By Zeus!

I haven't been able to do much writing this week, which is really frustrating, as I have had to work more shifts than usual.

However, given the deeply engaging nature of my job, I have had the time to ponder upon the best way to structure the final chapters of my book. So that's been a bonus.

While thus locked in thought, cogs whirling, the grey matter throwing off enough light to illuminate a small city, it struck me that the basic plot of my book could have been construed by Euripides or Aeschylus, it being a simple tale of love, self-sacrifice, revenge and murder.

CHORUS: How dare you compare yourself to Euripides or Aeschylus, David? For a start, you only studied ancient Greek for one year and failed miserably, whereas they spoke it fluently.

The basic plot is, needless to say, heavily disguised, so readers may well be surprised by this claim. All I ask is they wait until they have finished and digested the whole book before passing judgement.

CHORUS: You need to finish writing it first, idiot.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Not Suitable for Children

As should be the case for every writer with aspiration, I have been considering the topic of my next book, and, yes, it is going to be about SEX! All, and exclusively about SEX.


Not your red rose and champagne, not your erecting smooth columns in moist valleys sort of sex, but sex. Sex as in confrontational, as in language for the inarticulate, for the articulate, as in what the fuck is sex about sex. (Excuse the language, but sex brings forth unacceptable language and difficult emotions.) I wish to separate the physicality of sex, which we all understand, from the desire, which none of us do, the latter being an enclosed world of complexities and needs.

I have been talking about sex with daughters, an ex-lover and with my ex-wife's second husband among others, and, despite its exploitation by advertisers, despite the pressures of the commercial world, despite what we believe we understand about sex and, especially, the status bestowed on it by peers, church and society, our individual understanding remains intensely personal and foreign. (Quelle suprise.)

There is the animalistic need for sex, for procreation and the purely physical requirement of sexual relief; there are also the layers of mystification about the act. Even though we are animals, we do not fuck as animals - or, to contradict myself - we do but find that simple act difficult to accept. To do so requires gift-wrapping. It is the gift-wrapping and the reasons for it that I wish to explore.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

I'm So Excited (Sung badly out of tune)

I had a good day yesterday. Not only did I write 500 words, which is not bad for a working day, but made the important decision while at work to go for the finish.

My concern has been I would not hit my target of 80,000 words. Thinking about it yesterday, I came to the conclusion that the story itself has to dictate its length. If it is shy of 80,000 words, so be it. Also, because of the way it is constructed, it will certainly creak if pushed beyond its comfort zone.

So I know what happens from here to the finishing line, it is just a matter of writing it.

I can't tell you how exciting a feeling it is to see the tape ahead.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Just Keep Rolling Along

Because of my disruptive pattern of work, odd shifts at odd times, I shape my week to leave me as much time at the weekend, or my version thereof, for my writing. Nonetheless, I find it difficult to settle into a pattern of writing. Just as I achieve it, back I am to the disruptive pattern.

Pourtant, c'est pas un germissement, c'est une pipe.

My point is once I find I am on a roll with my writing, it is best if I keep rolling; keep writing.


Last Monday I wrote approximately 1,000 words, Tuesday I wrote 2,500+. Wednesday I was back to shifts and struggled to write 150 words.

I am probably very boring company when writing, (I’m probably very boring company when not writing – let me say it before you do), my head is elsewhere, but ideas are spinning and the process of writing is reduced to setting down what I have in my head on to paper, or screen. I find blockages, doubts or hesitations recede. The momentum helps carry me through.

For instance, I wrote the best part of a chapter on Monday devoted to a scene I had not even planned. While writing it, an uninvited voice kept whispering in my ear that it was irrelevant and didn’t move the story along.

The voice was wrong on a number of counts:

  1. It describes a situation most of us will recognise and so helps the reader identify with the situation of a protagonist who is less than sympathetic.
  2. It marks the start of the final downward spiral for the main character.
  3. It allows me to develop the relationship between two characters.

All of these things I had intended to do at some point; however, while pondering on possible routes during the course of my working week, my imagination had become bogged down in more and more prosaic or predictable scenarios.

The process of writing magically gathered up my intentions and delivered the solution in a manner I had not expected.