I hate editing. Not in the sense that someone might use the word ‘hate’ where they flippantly ‘hate’ the colour of a carpet or they ‘hate’ a Matthew Maconahay film, I mean I really hate it. I hate it so much I decided to write a blog about how much I hate it, not really because I want to share it with the world, but just because I feel like I’m doing something constructive that I can use as justification for avoiding the editing I should be doing.
And therein lies the crux of my hatred, the fact that writing a blog post that no one will ever read feels more constructive than editing. When I’m done with editing a huge chunk of my book I look back and almost everything looks exactly the same, perhaps I’m not doing it right, but then if I was to be more malicious and scrap everything I wasn’t completely happy with then only about two words of the book would exist. And maybe that’s another part of the issue, it’s the fear that the book isn’t good enough. Before, I was just writing for no reason other than to amuse myself and to be able to say to myself ‘you wrote a book’. It wasn’t even to tell other people (in fact, only about four people knew I’d written a book when that was all that had happened, now a lot more people know because I’m actually getting published and, as we know, word spreads). But now I know that people, even if its only immediate family and friends, are going to want to read this book, and then they’re going to have to tell me what they thought, and some of them aren’t very good liars. I’m now editing for an audience. I’m not editing in the way I did the first time around where I was just sort of making sure it vaguely made sense and everything was spelt correctly. But what do they care? Are they really going to enjoy the book any less than they already would because a comma is in the wrong place? Or are they going to be loving it and then suddenly throw the book at the wall because of a faux pas involving ‘they’re’ and ‘their’? Or am I maybe just continuing to write about this because I know as soon as I finish I’ll have to get back to the editing?
I think I’ve misplaced my point somewhere along the way, but if I went back to find it I might end up doing some editing, which would very much defeat the object of this blog post, instead I’m going to try and stumble towards another one. Part of it might be because I have a deadline, too. I’ve got intense hours in front of a computer looking at pages of writing I personally wrote and wincing at things I can’t believe I wrote and adding in new ideas that occur to me and shifting things around and trying to come up with a new title and it’s generally a fairly unnatural way to read a novel. And maybe that is my biggest fear, that I’ll end up hating the book, which luckily I don’t yet. As far as my immediate family and friends go I’m sure they’ll feel some kind of obligation to read the book at least once, but that’s as much as I will expect and then they can move on. If they were to sit down and scour it for errors, and things they’d change, and bits they hate, and did that for hours on end and re-read the book over and over again, then even if they were fairly indifferent about it the first time, they would certainly have strong emotions about it after read number 64. I’m sucking the life out of the book from my perspective, which is only adding to the fear of whether it’s any good.
So in between the Masters course I’ve started, the freelance writing I’ve been doing and the part-time work that I’m still yet to locate I’ve got to get this thing that (I’m not sure if I mentioned this) I hate done by the end of October. And so to avoid that, and out of spite, I’ve changed my mind and I’m going to go back right now and edit this blog, because luckily I already have a fairly low opinion of it, so reading through it again a couple of times isn’t going to alter that very much.
A Brief History of A Very Important Book About Mooranity
The main reason that this blog has come into existence is because I somehow managed to swindle myself a publishing contract. The deal is based on a wee book I had brewing during my final year at University that can almost entirely be attributed to the various exercises we were forced into doing in my second year Creative Writing module. I think this helped me to actually try and finish something I’d started, something I find reasonably difficult to do most of the time, all day, every day.
After having to do all of these exercises that involved producing short stories and opening chapters and other things people might associate with creative writing I have a vague memory of trying to force a bizarre and bewildering ‘stream-of-consciousness’ type thing (something I’d done when I was feeling particularly pretentious and The Simpsons wasn’t currently on) into a story. This wasn’t because I had any other goal than to simply hand something in before the deadline. But I suppose that’s where the idea of the book originated.
It was this nonsense stream-of-consciousness semi-poem that I decided to bind with an idea I had for a little allegorical tale I had made up one time that I thought could be told by a knob of a character to another character that didn’t necessarily have to be a knob.
These two bits of nothing much had things in common. Namely, neither made any sense at all. And that is where the idea began to crawl towards becoming fully formed, I suppose. I thought about why these things don’t make any sense, why they’re pointlessly ambiguous and inaccessible. I thought about why anyone would bother to read them. Perhaps if they didn’t simply see them as words to read, but they were things they had to read, as part of a religion they believe in. Thus the story of The Platinum Staircase melded with the Love, Peace, Happiness and Oysters (later to become Goldfish, because I couldn’t draw an Oyster) semi-poem. Now all I had to do was build a story around them. If they were to be words that would emulate religious writing, the book needed to be about religion, and probably about the origins of it, so maybe a man starts a religion. Or, better still, perhaps he doesn’t even mean to.
There are almost certainly similar ideas out there, but this was my take on the whole accidental religion thing (an obvious faux religion/cult thing would be Danny Wallace’s brilliant Join Me idea).
But as I was using my little head to think about things when I started writing this blog post, I was trying really hard to place the moment I thought about the book and I tried to extract it from the time I actually began writing it. And I realised I couldn’t, because that probably never happened, and if I think it did then it’s probably a false memory. It’s something discussed in one of the endlessly interesting TED talks, in particular one given by Steve Johnson about Where Ideas Come From. I’d highly recommend pressing the link and watching this for yourself. In it he discusses how the old-time coffee shops were the origins of good ideas, because people could stitch together the parts of ideas they each had to produce fully formed ones. He describes ideas as being a social thing. And I think that’s true, even if I wasn’t aware of it, certain things that people have said to me went towards the finished product and towards the concept of the book as a whole. It had to. We are the consequence of our experiences.
Admittedly the video is actually entitled ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’, but I couldn’t bring myself to associate my idea with the ‘good’ variety. Anyway, it’s a great talk, and I think I can see what he’s talking about, because I don’t think it was a Eureka moment for me and my little book. I think it was a slow paced realisation born out of a few ideas that I could find the origin of and a load of other ideas I will never be able to find the origin of, and it was a collaborative effort with myself, if that makes any sense, which it doesn’t.
In the end I didn’t do anything related to this idea for my Creative Writing module, instead I wrote something about something else that I didn’t think I could string out for the length of a book. Over my third year, alongside essays, a dissertation, a lot of part time work, hanging around with mates, and long periods of unfiltered laziness, I got the bulk of the book together. I’m still unsure how. And then I spent the following Summer finalising it.
Then I stumbled across the downright brilliant Completely Novel, a site that allows people to self-publish for free. And so I did, and I left it there, and I mostly forgot about it. After the initial excitement of actually finishing a novel and then ‘self-publishing’ it, I thought I’d done my bit on that front. I had officially achieved one of my life goals of finishing a novel, and this was somehow made more real by the fact that it was readily available for people to read for free online, and even purchase as a hard copy if they were so inclined. But eventually I came back to it, I think I remember being told that in one of my lectures, to lock it away for a few months and then come back to it. I suppose that’s what I did in a Web 2.0 sense. I came back to it, got angry about how bad it was, and set about editing and altering it. After that I posted it off to about 50 literary agents, which was expensive, time consuming and demoralising, but I knew that was the general idea anyway. I’d spoken to a couple of authors and knew this was the deal if you want to get published, but one way or another I lost heart (and couldn’t really afford the postage anymore). And, once again, I forgot about it.
Meanwhile the latest version was up on Completely Novel. It lay dormant and forgotten, until a publisher stumbled across it and decided to offer me a publishing contract. It was certainly not the conventional way I was told this should happen, and I was both surprised and excited, but after considering things for a bit I took the deal and am now at the early stage of the publishing process i.e. editing and submitting my final manuscript. It’s a small publishing company, so I’m certainly not allowing my imagination to run away from me about the outcome of all of this, and I’ll just keep writing in the mean time.
And so that brings me to here, and also brings me back full circle to why this blog exists in the first place, it’s basically going to be my main web presence as an author, which it seems I am now. Even though it still doesn’t, and probably never will, feel right to say it.
The book that is currently known as ‘A Very Important Book About Mooranity”s intended release date by Knightstone Publishing is exactly sometime in 2011