Friday, September 17, 2010


Apologies to those giving a gentle nudge. I've been really busy, honest! The Book! Okay so way back in the spring the book went out to about half a dozen of the big publishers. The agent's plan was to put it out to a few, see what the feedback was and if it was positive then hit another half dozen.
The feedback was pretty good. I recall three out of six of the editors said they loved it but were gutted because the marketing department for various reasons ranging from 'already have our new thriller writer for this year to 'it's too tough a market right now for literary thrillers'. How much of that is bullshit that really means 'didn't like it enough' I'll never know.
One said they didn't like it and one we never heard back from ever.

But that was enough for the agent to send it out to another 8 publishers. To me this is quite a long time ago and I tend not to look back but I recall about 4 positive feedbacks going from ' 'I loved the story and characters but didn't like the location' to 'He is a remarkable talent with a fantastic book and it is with the deepest regret that I can't convince the marketing department that ,,,, etc (okay I remembered that one)
Again, how much of that is bullshit I don't know.
I think two didn't like it but didn't really give any feedback and two never replied.
I'm not one for flogging a dead horse, and my agent seems convinced that though this might not be book 1 it will sell eventually. Or in plain English, get another away and suddenly it's good enough to sell.

Being a writer and therefore by definition having a mental disfunction, I started book 2. Unfortunately, as anyone who has read my meanderings is aware, I've joined the ranks of those working for a living after ten years of pissing words on paper for pay, so book 2 is slow going. In my work I'm pissing more words on paper but the job satisfaction isn't quite the same and the hours are considerably longer. I work in the City so by the time I get home I'm pretty much either fucked or drunk, neither of which is conducive to good writing.
Anyway, that's the state of play. No mega deal for the book I spent months writing, but am I discouraged? Nah.
I spent years as a screenwriter and so spent many cumulative months on various projects that never saw the light of day. It's all subjective. Right time. right place, right person.

As writers you know that my way will be 'as soon as I get a deal the City can go screw itself.'

It's the way it always will be for writers. We're cursed, and God bless us for it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Moment Of Truth

Well I guess all I can do now is cross my fingers. My agent returned from Australia last week after a month away, read the latest draft and announced it was going out to publishers this week.
I'm pretty excited but not hyperventillating, probably because as a screenwriter I'm used to work going out to producers with little chance of anything happening with it. I know this situation is different, but I'm trying to keep it in perspective. Just because a book goes out to publishers doesn't mean anyone's going to buy it.

However, I wrote a book. Got an agent. Got it to publishers. I'm counting that as a win! Some dosh would be an added bonus. The other thing is that my agent has smartly targeted just a few publishers to see what the feedback is. If it's 'We like it but...' then I'll take note of the 'but' and possibly re-write.

Obviously I'm hoping the response is positive, in which case it will go out wide. I've been over a year farting about with the book for various reasons and frankly am getting a little punch drunk with it. Especially bearing in mind that it hasn't changed that much since about April last year. Most of the interim period was messing around with agents, waiting for responses, summer holidays etc. It's really hard to believe it's taken so long to get to this stage.

Anyway, my agent says it will now go quiet for a couple of weeks, which for a screenwriter is no time at all. My mate Dublin was getting offers on his book after about a fortnight which he found pretty incredible after a career as a screenwriter. I should be so lucky!

So that's the state of play at the moment. In two or three weeks I should know if it's a dead duck, a re-write or sold. (which will mean a re-write but at least it will be a paid one!) Either way I've absolutely enjoyed the process of writing a novel, something I didn't know I could do. Whether I've written one that makes it to the shelves is now in the lap of the gods.
I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

You don't have to be crazy.....

to work here, but it helps.

Yep a cliche that a writer would never use. But cliches become so because they tend to be true. And I do actually believe that in order to actively seek and then survive the life of a professional writer you need a certain degree of insanity. Except you don't think you're insane, it's only everyone else who thinks you are.

And who can blame them? You have no job security or career structure. Your entire livelihood is based on the subjective decision of others. And unlike the work of a self-employed carpenter for example, your work is up for scrutiny by millions of people who have access to the internet and aren't slow about voicing there opinions.

I 've noticed that James Moran has stopped blogging and for a nano second Stephen Fry stopped twittering. A writer is open to abuse in ways never before anticipated. And for a writer that is tough, especially for the sensitive variety and especially for a TV/film writer. We have our names on the credits but the viewing public as a rule have no idea of the battles fought and lost so any sense of injustice over criticism leveled is magnified because the writer in general is overuled by the producers et al and can count themselves lucky if 70% of what was envisaged ends up on screen.

It's why I'm trying to move out of that arena with the novel. I want more control over what appears. If I get slated then fair enough. I'll know it was mostly down to me. If it works then it might give me more leverage if I go back into TV. Though to be honest I think it's doubtful if I will go back. I wouldn't trust any of the current regimes on any of the terrestial channels to know good drama if it fucked them soundly and left a return airfair to Rio on the sideboard as a tip.

So yes, a degree of insanity is a pre-requisite to being a professional writer. But not too much. As Swiss Tony from The Fast Show would say - being a writer is like making love to a beautiful woman; Nutters don't get to do it. But someone a little off the wall just might.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

It's not a sprint

It's a marathon, after first completing a slow jog with a dead leg from Bloomsbury to Soho via Dusseldorf.
Or so it seems at the moment.

For anyone wondering if I was alive or not, yes I think I am. And ready to continue the saga of my quest to turn from TV to novels. To continue where I left off, I have now signed with an agent. Not the mega agent but the other good but less high profile one, for reasons that I will now bore you with.
Back in the summer (remember that couple of weeks?) I got line by line notes from mega agent. The other agent had suggested that I alter the structure of the book, and while I understood his reasons, it wouldn't have been the book I wanted to write.
Yes okay, I can hear the snorts of 'prima donna' but hell, I've spent 10 years writing shite at the behest of others and don't want to spend the next ten doing the same.

So I put the other agent on hold and duly did the line by line notes for mega agent who had no concerns about the structure. Soooooooooome time later, I got a reply from mega agent saying she wanted to pass me on to another agent there because she thought it needed more editing for description and this agent was a whizz, and was that okay with me?

In principle it was. Everyone needs a good editor. I think the original title of Mein Kamph was something like 'My four and a half years of struggle against lies, stupidity and cowardice'. I don't think it would have been quite so popular with the original title, possibly because some words have two or more syllables.

But... I was then told (cos I asked) that the suggested agent/whizz editor hadn't yet read the manuscript. I mentioned that there was another agent who wanted to sign me and holding him off was making me a litttle uncomfortable, so a little haste would be appreciated. I got a message back that the suggested agent would read the first 50 pages overnight and get back to me.

Three days later ....... not a dicky. One thing that 10 years in the Tv trenches has taught me is that you go where the love is. By this point I was feeling like the spare prick at a whore's wedding so decided to go where the love was.

I called the agent who wanted to sign me and told him of the problems I had with his notes. He suggested a meeting the next day. The meeting went like this :-

Me - My difficulty is that the notes you gave me would make a great book. Just not the book I want to write.

Agent - The only reason I made those suggestions was it would make it an easier sell. An absolutely archetypcal thriller if you will. Personally I love the book the way it is.

Me- How about I finish the draft I'm working on with the current structure, give it to you for notes and then we put it out to a few publishers for feedback. If it comes back that they want the structure changed, then I'll change it.

Agent - Fine by me.

Forms signed, hands shaken, meeting done. Okay those were the highlights after the chit-chat, but as a synopsis that was pretty much it.

I've just finished the draft and sent it in. Once again awaiting notes, but this time the marathon is extended yet again as the agent is jetting off on holiday for the whole of December, hey ho. Hopefully I'll get the notes back before he goes and can work on the book so it's ready to go out in January.
Did I say via Dusseldorf? Try Tokyo.

Anyway, what did I learn? Well, the fact that mega agent liked the structure gave me the confidence to stick up for it with the agent who suggested I change it, so I can't say that the months of delay before signing was wasted time. And I'm extreamly happy with my agent, well respected agency, a guy you can talk to, loaded with integrity, business savvy, the bees knees.

I learned from my beautiful and talented girlfriend who hooked up with me just before I started this entreprise that, contrary to my own self-image and denial of others opinions, I do indeed have a kamikaze streak and so it's a good job I'm a well hung stud-muffin who's fantastic in bed or I'd be dumped. ( She doesn't know I write this blog so I can get away with a little exaggeration. I don't really think she'd dump me)

I guess the next thing of note will be when and if the book goes to a few select publishers for feedback. There will be another post then for anyone who isn't sick to death of the longest suicide note in history!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Time for an update

Life gets tedious donnit? Well, not really, it can just seem to have a hiatus now and again; the trick is to enjoy the hiatus to the best of your ability.

So here's the updated skinny re: my foray into novel writing.

Mega agent gave me notes somewhere near the begining of August. I was pissing off to France for a couple of weeks at about the same time. So not a lot of work done then. In my defence it was my first ever proper holiday with my new significant other with rug-rats in tow. My familial duties during the day and getting rat arsed at night with an eclectic bunch of Slovenians who were also staying at the same converted farmhouse [long story] made actual work not as high on the list of priorities as I might have hoped.

But boy..... did I learn a lot. And in my view that is the one of the few things a writer can put in the bank and live with. Apart from money.

Monday, June 22, 2009

nearly July

Jings and help ma bob, where does the time go? I just realised that it was June 2nd when I posted that I was waiting on notes from the big agent. The exciting news is that I'm still waiting. Not that I can complain much as the wait is due to a medical glitch resulting in hospitalization. [the agent, not me] Though truth be told I did complain - silently to myself, you know the kind of thing , why me? If it was raining soup I'd only have a fork, etc.

I'd like to think that the reason for my apparent initial lack of sympathy was due to the pressure of holding off another agent who has offered representation and not just because I'm a selfish git. But there is another reason why time is important. As my mate Dublin said, and I paraphrase, 'They all fuck off for the summer' Actually I didn't paraphrase very much of that.

You see, Dublin had pretty much finished his 'going out' draft about this time last year but his agent told him he may as well take his time because there was no point in it going to publishers until September when they were all back from their summer jollys in the fleshpots of Margate or trekking in the foothills of Butlins [I hear times are tough in the publishing world] I figure his agent must have been right due to the amout of zeroes in Dublin's deal when it finally went out in September.

So this delay seems to me to pretty much mean for certain that at best the book won't go out until the nights are drawing in. At worst it won't go out at all of course and that will be another story.

Bearing in mind I began writing the book last September, that's a whole year of my ever shortening life gone for a Burton. That might not seem a lot to you, but I enjoy my earthly pleasures to such an extent that I think the old 'three score years and ten' is wildly optimistic in my case.

What's more to the point is that it looks like I will have to put on a suit for the first time in fifteen years. Yes the time has come when I have to get a proper job. Man cannot live by bread alone and I am doughless. Having concentrated on the novel over the last year and become tired of the whole TV game to the point where I can't be arsed writing for it [and to be fair the feeling is probably mutual in that they can't be arsed employing me] money has become an issue. A few months back I put feelers out in my old career, mainly to please those riding the alimony pony, not really thinking it would ever actually come to the point where I had to do anything about it. But this latest delay which will now turn into months has forced my hand. I've been offered a consultancy job for an initial three months, which suits the time line down to the ground. I figure it'll take them that long to discover I'm crap by which time the book will hopefully have sold.

This is as close to a back-up plan as I ever get.

So that's how things roll at Chez English. The next expected news is next week when I should finaly get the notes I've been waiting for. Coincidentally the week where I should be donning the old whistle and flute [ if it still fits]

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


For those of you following this foray into the novel writing world, and I know there at least three of you lol, here is the latest.

I met with the big time agent who said she loved the book and would give me line by line notes shortly. She didn't get down on bended knee, call me the greatest gift to writing since Jeffery Archer and offer to have my children, but I'll let that slide. Neither did she offer to actually sign me, saying that she never signs a client until the book is ready to go out. Fair enough. It was a good meeting and the broad notes she gave were very do-able. I haven't done anything about them as yet because experience in the trenches tells me that anything I do on the broad notes can easily be fucked six ways from Sunday by the line by line edit.

I got back from the meeting and checked my email. Lo and behold to my great surprise I'm invited to another meeting with another agent. I trotted along and that too seemed to go pretty well. The broad notes were a bit more onerous involving some hefty structural changes that right now I think may or may not change the tone of the book, and again he didn't whip out the papers and ask for my John Hancock.

That didn't worry me too much. With no mention of signing I was free to take or leave whatever notes I wanted and after due consideration go for a re-write with whichever agent I thought best.
Until yesterday
That was when the second agent mailed me to say he had thought about it over the weekend and wanted the old moniker asap.
To make matters more complicated the first agent mailed to say her notes would be delayed as she had to go to LA for most of this week.

So what's a girl to do? I like the second agent. He 's with a good agency, gives good notes, is a nice guy and clearly has integrity. The first agent, I've yet to see substantive notes but liked her and what she had to say and she's with an agency with major international firepower.

I guess common sense has to come in here. There's no way I can sign for the second agent without seeing the first agent's notes. As my mate Dublin pointed out, these guys spend all day pressing the reject button so I shouldn't feel bad about keeping them waiting for a decision. They do what's best for their business and therefore so should I. For my business I have to decide on who gives the best combination of getting the book into shape to sell and then selling it. Two equally important parts of the equation. I won't have all the information I need until I get the second set of substantive notes when the first agent gets back from La La land.

I don't want to piss off the second agent by stalling. As I said, I liked what he had to say, but it's a risk I have to take. This is a business when it comes down to it. And talking of business I feel a bit like a whore working two beds, trying to figure out which one is the more lucrative, but hey, no lay no pay.

I'll stall and I'll wait. If it goes tits up.... well you know me. I'll let you know!

But here is the major difference between book agents and film agents that has only just become apparent to me. Because I'm a bit thick.

A film/tv agent will take you on not because they think they can sell your script, but because they think they can use it to get you other paying work. A book agent takes you on because they think they can sell your book. End of story.

My sense of dramedy kinda likes that.