After my book "The London Silence" was published, I grew to hate the text. About 120 were sold but I decided it had to die. I wanted to change the ending to a one-page "Coda" and resolve the dramatic irony more satisfactorily. I told PG to remove it from sale. So it's out-of-print even p.o.d.
The London Silence, cover flat
I buried my stash of copies in a recycling bin. However, secondhand copies could still be bought on Amazon. Just recently, I thought, "I'll buy them all and bin them too" but it's not possible as some are priced at outrageous levels. However, a strange thing happened next.
For the first time in nearly 15 years, I started re-reading the text and it wasn't as bad as I expected. Maybe my standards have slipped but I don't think it's that. It's because here were things that without this text were completely lost to my mind. It's a museum of me.
I now have a collection of used books, some of which I signed and numbered in 2004. They found their way to charity shops and thence to World of Books and that's fine. One of them is actually pristine, from a bookshop I imagine, as a few did go to real bookshops in the US & UK.
I'm still not happy with the ending, general restrained flow or anyway a lack of plenitude, underwriting, typo "alter" for "altar". But then I've noticed numerous typos in famous bestselling books since then and love it when I spot them so, again, - relief.
I used to complain to my friend at the publisher (Pretend Genius) that the book should never have been published, but now I think I should say an overdue thank you to them and that, after all, it wasn't so bad. I'm even thinking about a new edition, or rehabilitating parts of it, only I'd like to finish other things I've started since then first.
I have been rewriting something this week and I can't believe how full of errors it is. It's like wood that has been completely infested with woodworm. Leaving things for a good long while helps to see them better later on, they say. I'm conscious that I haven't posted anything for ages, so meanwhile, here is a photo that reminds me I have actually done a few things in my time, had a lot of fun and made some good friends. Layers upon layers.
I will share a writing tip that I was keeping to myself. (What have I got to lose?) After every sentence you write, imagine there’s a child in that wonderful phase when to everything you say, they ask “Why?” Then you will have your next sentence. Its main use is in getting started. It gets you from the diving board into the water. But also, later on, it might help you to resume when you’re a bit stuck for the next sentence.
Last week I was at home with a recuperating old dog. I'm decluttering the place. We're living in a terraced house beside a wide, busy city street. I put the section of concert seating that was used in a famous recording (John Lennon and Jagger/Dirty Mac?) into the front garden, thinking maybe I ought to get rid of it. I changed my mind and went back out, but a clownish Beatles memorabilia merchant and assistant had already loaded it into their van. I explain that I'm not discarding it, look inside for a minute and ensure the dog won't get out, but when I return they've already gone. And a little way along the road, they have left a long panel they didn't want. It's sticking out in the street, a hazard to cyclists etc. I walk there and move the panel straight alongside the kerb. The dog has managed to get out but he's pottering about in the front garden and goes back in with me, safe and sound.
There are big bales of herbal marijuana here. I'm not too worried. Dad is game to try some and begins working on rolling up a spliff, something he has never done before, at the table. But then someone's boyfriend is coming in. I hope he's not a policeman, looks a bit like he might be, a big guy. I ask him and he says he is. He stands looking out our window. I assume he won't bother about us having or smoking dope but no, he says he cannot overlook it.
I just can't be creative typing into a box on the screen, as I am now, after all. It's too busy, too noisy, too bright, too oppressive. When are they going to make silent desktop computers? The one I have has a solid state disc drive but still runs a cooling fan. (Notes: "Still Runs a Cooling Fan" possible bodice ripper?) I had to seek out my writing book and call up the old fountain pen out of retirement. So how did I get on? I spent a while getting the ink to flow (hint: put the nib for a second under a warm water tap). Then I wrote out something about why I'm not writing anything.
That turns out to be because I have no end in view. E. L. Doctorow (?) said that writing a novel is like driving unlit roads at night: you can only see as far ahead as your headlights reach but you can get to your destination that way, so not to worry. He might not have said not to worry. But that presupposes you know where you're going. Otherwise you're just driving around at night for no purpose. There might be novels that do that, perhaps Italo Calvino style, but more usually you need to know your ending. You don't need to know exactly how you're going to get there but when you start out, it helps to have an end in view, and I think in fact it's essential, at least for me.
So I wrote something like that in my writing book (A4 hard cover, spiral bound), admiring the flow of ink from the gold plated nib. And nothing else.
My son is an artist, among other things, and told me about the need to keep the wet edge going in certain sorts of painting. Don't ask me what sort, I'm here to talk about writing. So, right or wrong, and I'm not checking effing Wikipedia, I say that leaving a story unfinished for too long can make it hard to resume. This I suppose is like the wet edge that you have to keep going. Also, I read an idea recently from someone that you should stop writing each day (yes, in case you didn't know, you're supposed to do it every day - do as I say, not as I do) when you still know what you want to write next, instead of draining it all out, the theory being that it will then be easier to resume.