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!