Here it is, another good reason to selfpublish: I can recycle my own words (and ideas) as much as I fancy. In fact, I have even reused an entire sentence from Chapter 47 of Corvus in Chapter 48. Yup, indeed I have. Quite fun it was too: go on, look for it. Play the Google Game if you have the time and inclination.
So readers, please take this as fair warning: my words are mine, and I will damn well repurpose them exactly as I see fit.
Weed or flower? I reckon it depends on your point of view.
The Guardian columnist Damien G. Walter has published a checklist to help writers decide if they’re ready to self-publish. Despite my reluctance to accept any checklist as a guide to something as complex, idiosyncratic, and frustrating as writing, he ends his piece on a note I can embrace:
And if you really can’t wait? If you don’t meet any of this seven criteria but want to leap in to the white waters of indie publishing anyway, just for the hell of it? Well then good luck to you, and enjoy the ride, wherever it takes you.
Enjoyment doesn’t really come into it, at least in my case. I used to garden passionately, even obsessively, trying to banish every damned weed within my borders — not much enjoyment there. I left it to others to take pleasure in the garden; I was too busy with the next task. Now I’ve come to accept — in fact, to believe — that weeds are as essential to my little corner of the universe as highly cultivated stock, as the beautiful roses which required constant vigilance and care. It’s a jungle out there.
The real question a writer should ask is not whether she’s ready. The question is, ready for what: Money? Followers? Prizes? Five-star Amazon ratings? The approval of a critic or two? Readers?
Or perhaps none of those: ready with a perfect piece of fiction? Well, yes, that’s the dream, but the only place you’ll find that is in the one Garden well beyond my reach.
Instead, I choose to be a weed — ignored, sometimes despised, frequently removed, but unwilling to disappear. Hardy.
I wish I were the sort of writer who could draft a blog post without agonising unduly, but I’m not. Still, I don’t want to give up blogging altogether, and this is a useful place to store all those quotes about writing which are worth going back to regularly.
And so, to me that story and all stories are in one sense about the shape of storytelling, rather than about the narrative itself that makes up the content of the story. I would say that I heard the sound of what I was going to write a long time before I knew any of the details of the story. Before I caught on to what it was about, I heard the sound, as if the music had already been written and the shape had already been drawn. And I just made the details that fit in it. That’s why it’s easier for me to write a short story than a novel. Because I can see the shape of them more clearly than I can see the shape of a novel. And so when I write a novel, I have to shape the chapters. They’re not exactly short story shaped chapters, but they’re shaped individually so that when I get enough of them together I can begin to see a pattern of shapes that will shape the novel. This is all very abstract, I understand, but it’s what writers don’t get to talk about.
Since it will probably be a year or two – or longer! – before I can publish my new novel, here’s another excerpt to keep you going.
Shivering slightly, Khai moved to the edge of the cliff. His toes gripped the rock, his wings outspread to help him balance. The soles of his feet would soon be stained purple from the lichen, his hair soaked from the spray, but he continued to gaze into the sounding darkness below. Occasionally, a grounder jumped to his death from a building or bridge, from an escarpment to which only winged climbers were permitted access. The barbaric practice of clipping embryonic wings had been abandoned centuries ago in favour of genetic modification, which idiots like Tark’s father claimed was far more humane, since you couldn’t miss what you’d never had. Last year, Namonkhai’s teenage daughter had died at the Sable Quarry. Whether suicide or accident, each death was a death too many. If Khai achieved nothing else as councillor, he’d see to it that no person was ever again denied their wings. It was—or ought to be—their birthright. Though his grandmother had yet to endorse his campaign, there were indications that she viewed it favourably.
And yes, it’s from the same novel as the previous excerpt!
However – and you are quite welcome to call me a naive fool for thinking this – I believe that in this festering compost heap of discarded dreams, the fertile seeds of human imagination must lie buried. In the thousands upon thousands of stories being independently published today there must surely be some worth reading, and at least a handful with the potential to be truly great. And so I’m taking up the gauntlet and heading forth on a quest, descending into the new digital underworld of the human imagination to see what I can find.
The man has got cahones – stamina too, I hope.
Corvus remains available as MP3 podcasts, narrated by the wonderful Welsh actor Ioan Hefin. I’m in the process of updating Ioan’s current biography on the Corvus title page – and eventually there’ll be some new photos too – but as a way of archiving previous information, each year I’ll post the past year’s text.
Here is what we said in 2011:
Ioan has worked as an actor, writer and director for over twenty years. His most recent works include a one-man show based on the life of Alfred Russel Wallace, which toured in Wales and Brazil last year and is scheduled for a performance in the Natural History Museum in London before the end of the year.
Bilingual in English and Welsh, Ioan has also played the part of Berian for the award winning ‘Pen Talar’ (Fiction Factory/S4C) and James for ‘Gwaith Cartref’ (Fiction Factory/S4C). He will be joining the cast of ‘Teulu’ (Boomerang/S4C) to play the role of Dafydd Wyn during the summer and autumn.
He will also be returning to the Edinburgh Fringe for the first time since 1986 to direct “Random’ for Quad Theatre Company.
In Ioan’s own words:
For me, 2010 has been one of those rare years where work has been plentiful, challenging, varied and very, very satisfying. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every minute because those sorts of years don’t come around very often in the acting world!
The one-man show about the life of Alfred Russel Wallace has been on the road again – and is heading to Rio de Janeiro before the end of July. The response has also prompted Theatr Na n’Og to adapt the script for a cast of three and will be performing for young people from South Wales between September and December in the Dylan Thomas Theatre in Swansea. Wallace is definitely my all-time hero and should be an ambassador for everyone in Wales – and every citizen of planet earth.
Over 6000 young people have also seen my adaptation of the ‘Gluscabi’ stories that toured in the spring.
I’ve been filming two new series for S4C’s Fiction Factory: ‘Pen Talar’ and ‘Gwaith Cartref’. They’re due for broadcast during the winter.
I returned to Trinity College in Carmarthen to direct a production with BA Acting students and hope to return there again next spring. They’re a wonderful group of students to work with.
The consistent project for the past year has been the serialisation of Corvus, and what a fantastic way to cap a memorable year. My main aim was to try and justify the quality of the text – I’m still in awe of the writing. I feel truly privileged to have been involved, and the experience is one that will remain with me forever. (I now realise why editors curse actors for going beyond one take!)
I came to Glen Duncan because of I, Lucifer – not hard to guess why, and yes, it’s always a burden, a trial, an eye-opener, and of course a challenge to see what a wonderful writer has done with your current obsession(s) – and ever since turning that first page I’ve been on a Duncan reading spree. Technically both bold and accomplished, the man is even more of a whiz at voice. As far as I’m concerned, his characters don’t have to do anything as long as they keep talking.
In a break between Duncan novels, I’ve finally been reading Megan Whalen Turner’s A Conspiracy of Kings – fourth in the fantasy series and great fun if you like complex political intrigues and a dab hand at narration – and Roland Merullo’s The Talk-Funny Girl, which right at the outset has one of the most cogent descriptions in fiction of abuse’s legacy :
That girl [the narrator as a child in the New Hampshire hills] was not treated well, and when anyone is hurt like that – especially a child – the hurt burrows down inside and makes a kind of museum there, with images of the bad times displayed on every wall. Some people try to forget the museum exists and keep their mind occupied with drink or drugs or food, or by staying busy with work, or they chase one kind of excitement after another, while the memories fester there in the dark. I understand all that, and I don’t lay a judgment, as we used to say, over any of it. Some people use their own hurt as an excuse for hurting others, or for soaking in self-pity, or for a sharp anger that knifes up through the surface whenever something reminds them of what happened long ago. Some people spend their lives trying never to do what was done to them.
How many psychology texts has it taken to say what Merullo has managed to say in these few lines?