Accidental Resolutions

I’ve spent the last six months or so reading a shit load of books. And with it, I’ve been writing reviews of them. One review a week, written as much for me as they were for anyone else.

 

But, in case anyone was interested, I published them on my blog – this blog – and I did all the correct social media stuff. I had a brand, a regular time, I tagged the authors, the publishers, the publicists and made as many references to pop culture (Justin Bieber, One Direction, etc) to try and boost the number of page hits.

 

It sort of worked, page views and visitors increased every month from July through to December, and while some of the numbers came from people directly clinking on the links I put on Twitter, I was starting to see a lot of traffic from search engines.

 

I can’t see what the search term was when people come through from Google (and perhaps unsurprisingly, that seems to be the search engine most people use), but I can from other search engines. So I plugged in some of the terms myself.

 

  • The one that came up most was Jude St Francis – the main character of A Little Life (my favourite book of the year, and incidentally the post that had the most views across the year).

 

A Little Life was one of the big hits of 2015, one of the most talked about books of the year, so I was surprised to find that my post about it was getting traffic. Surely there must be a million posts out there just like mine?

 

When I typed Jude St Francis into Google – a link to my blog was the first result. Now a month or two later, it’s the second link. This was a huge surprise, I’m not sure how it happened, but it did.

 

Moving by Jenny Eclair is fast proving to be my second most popular post, and when I put that into Google, I discovered mine was the fifteenth link.

 

I’m not sure what I’m doing, but it seems to be working.

 

Last week, I was looking at my ‘Yearly Stats’ on WordPress and discovered I was only sixty views away from hitting two thousand for the year. I was excited to see how close I would come and so re-posted a few links.

 

I nearly made it. I was fifteen views short. One extra day would have done it.

 

And then I stopped to think. Two thousand views in a year, and I only started regularly posting in July. A little bit of quick maths tells me that I could hit four thousand views a year – or more – if I posted regularly.

 

Whether that’s an audience of one, reading things four thousand times, or four thousand individual people, I don’t know, but that’s a big number,. And some of them, I know, are reading more than one page at a time.

People are choosing to read what I write – and some of them, likely, even if it’s just that one maniac, are coming back to read more.

 

I’d considered self-publishing before, but it’s never really appealed to me, even in this world of self-made internet billionaires like EL James. I never thought I would have the energy or the presence to be able to sell an ebook online.

 

But a few things occurred to me last week:

  1. I have an established audience (even if it’s only one stalker)
  2. I write because I like to write, not because I want to make money (although if anyone offered me some, that would be great)
  3. I write well to deadlines.

 

And so I decided two things:

  1. I would publish my already written novel Memories of a Murder on my blog
  2. By the end of 2016, I would write the second novel, already largely planned – a sequel to Memories of a Murder.

 

The first part of Memories of a Murder will be published next week… just as soon as I’ve blown the cobwebs off of it.

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Pass the Gin

I mentioned in a previous post – at least I think I mentioned it, if I didn’t, then I’m mentioning it now – that a friend/colleague/flatmate of mine once said that I was too social to be a writer.

His view was that a writer is one of those people who sits inside, burrows themselves away and stays alone for months at a time, pouring their heart into their work – and likely, pouring gin into their mouths.  Simon romanticizes the process – and, there is likely nothing more romantic to him than being able to drink from morning to night.

But I disagree (not about the gin part). I like going out, of course I do, but there are some weekends where I get home from work at 6pm on a Friday night and don’t leave again until Monday morning. Even on these weekends, I often get little to no writing done.

It’s not because I’m too social, it’s because I get too easily distracted. Twitter. Facebook. The Simpsons: Tapped Out. The complete box set of Lost. Ironing. Painting the hallway. The flatmate (it’s a small flat, and he has a big mouth).

I recently deleted twitter from my phone. Not because of any misguided notion that without it I would become a 10,000 word a day writer, but because I just felt like I needed a break.

I did think that coming off twitter would give me a little extra time. But I’ve just found other distractions (Game of Trones, Grindr, this blog).

The trick to it is having a routine – and having one that you can stick to. I’m slowly trying to find one that works for me, but it’s difficult. Even if I do get all the little irrelevant distractions – life just gets in the way.

I will go back to twitter at some point – maybe soon – maybe I already have by the time I’ve posted this, because quitting it is not the secret to writing a bestseller.

I’ll try to give up some of the distractions and settle into a proper writing routine, but in the meantime, I need more friends on The Simpsons Tapped Out – I’m bertypop – add me!

Alex Call on Stephen King On Writing

There are shedloads of books out there about how to write. How to write a screenplay, how to write a bestseller, how to write a novel, how to write a children’s book, etc.

There are countless more blogs out there on writing, of which this one is just the equivalent of a tiny grain of sand on a vast beach.

But there is one book, which is widely accepted as the definitive work on the subject. Over the years, so many people have advised me to read it, recommended it, mentioned it – but I’ve never read it.

At least until recently, when I stumbled upon a copy of it during a recent undercover trip to check out the competition at Waterstones. I always make a point of looking for two books whenever I’m in a bookstore – The Uncle’s Story by Witi Ihimaera (my all-time favourite book, and I want a spare copy, just in case) – and On Writing.

Being a great believer in fate, that having kept my eyes open for it for various year, when I saw it, I bought it – even if it was from the enemy. Even the cashier said to me that it was extremely popular, and that usually when they got a copy it sold straight away.

The book is partly an autobiography – ‘this is how I did it, and this is how I do it’ – but it works for it, because there is no one way to be a writer.

There were some bits that I was completely amazed by – the bit where he talked about a book being like a fossil in the ground and all you had to do was find it, completely matches my own comparison when I talk about writing – and some bits that I was annoyed by.

Ultimately, though, Stephen King On Writing is the only book on writing you’ll ever need, because it reaffirms that you don’t learn to write fiction by reading a how-to guide.

You learn to write fiction by reading fiction, and by writing fiction.

I suppose I’d best get on with it.

I Was A Teenage Fan-Gurl

Forget Harry Hicks and Memories of a Murder – have I written anything else? What follows is a brief, almost-complete list of other pieces that I have written – or attempted to write.

Schooldays Are Such Fun

One of only two poems that I have written in my career thus far, this was a piece of forced creativity from my English teacher – Mrs Walker. Every member of the class was given the heading ‘Schooldays Are Such Fun’ and asked to write a poem to fit the title.

I still remember part of me rebelled at the thought of poetry being manufactured in this way, and so I wrote a poem about a boy who was bullied all through his school career, an experience which lasted with him all the way into his adult life, and ultimately his suicide.

Mrs Walker praised me highly, and she gave it a reading to the whole class, as well as putting it in pride of place on the wall. The reason it’s important to me, is Mrs Walker was probably the first person to read a piece of my work and declare that I might have a future in writing – and from an English teacher no less. I was thrilled.

I’m sure somewhere, I still have a full copy of the poem – I know I published it to an old LiveJournal account some years back – but I still remember the opening (and closing) verse:

Schooldays are such fun,

Schooldays are so great

What could be better

Than anger, pain and hate?

 

All Rhyme, No Reason

One module of my coursework for my English Language A-level was to write an original piece of fiction of approximately a thousand words in length. This told the story of Mary and Steve and their new friend Luke.

The story is told from Luke’s point of view and starts when Steve wakes up in the forest ‘as naked as the day God made him’. That was literally the first line – and there were several other examples of these subtleties throughout the story which signaled the surprise twist that this was actually the story of Adam and Eve – told through the eyes of the snake.

Luke/Lucifer spoke only in rhyme, which was quite a fun challenge – and to write the story without revealing too soon just what it was about.

I got 98% for that piece of coursework, but even now I still feel slightly concerned that I tried to pass it off as ‘original’ when it was basically a rip off of the first few chapters of the oldest story in the world.

Into The Darkness/A Series of Unfortunate Valentines

For a while, I channeled my creativity into writing fan-fiction for Angel the spin-off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, obsessed as I was at the time with the beautiful Charisma Carpenter.

I do still have these, and I likely won’t be sharing them, but my reason for mentioning them is that Into The Darkness – a piece set at Cordelia’s funeral where Angel is comforted by a vision of Cordelia herself – is probably the best thing I’ve ever written. Slightly cheating, as it relied on over eight years of back-story to achieve the emotional pay-off.

A Series of Unfortunate Valentines was a challenge I set myself, and tracked ten different Valentines days throughout Angel’s long history. My main challenge was to write this one man throughout his whole history in all his different moods, and I taught myself a lot about characterisation during that. But also, each of the ten sections was written in a different style, including one where – recognising early on my over-reliance on dialogue – that contained no speech at all.

Both pieces were invaluable in terms of teaching myself to write and I’m not ashamed of them, but for a while there, I was a FanGurl.

The Blue Continues

Several years ago, while watching The Curious Case of Benjamin Button I was so bored that I turned to writing poetry. The Blue Continues was partly inspired on the scenes I was being subjected to (truly an awful film, although a great idea). I do still have that, and I will post that in the near future.

There have been others, but these are probably the four most important ones, and almost certainly the only completed works in my catalogue.

The only other pieces in existence are half-hearted attempts at starting new novels with new characters. All of it is in my head, and much of it is in notepads and books that are lying on my bedside table.

Hopefully, they will be used again, in some form or another, because there are some great (even if I do say so myself) ideas in there.

Lastly, I feel like I need to end this post with an apology for my misleading use of the word ‘brief’ in the opening paragraph…