Writing, I’ve found, is a bit like running. For some reason – I have no idea why – I started knocking out blog posts in August at a rate much higher than I’d ever done previously finishing that month with 22. My previous highest had been 17 in September 2005 when I moved to White Sun of the Desert from my first blog. I carried this through to September when I put up 19 posts, with my 10 days in New York being the reason for slacking off. We’re not out of October yet and this will be my 35th post of the month. Hopefully I can keep this up because blogging, for me, is fun again.
Sometime over the summer I decided I would write a book, and in mid-August I made a start on it. I only really got going in mid-September after I came back from New York and yesterday I passed the halfway mark of 40k words, assuming a book is somewhere between 80k and 90k words. Like running where the more you do the fitter you get and the easier it becomes, with writing I find the ideas come more easily and the phrasing almost starts to write itself. All of this tells me that, if nothing else, I can write fast.
Which is great, but what about the quality? Well, that is subjective and there is only one way to find out if it’s any good.
My favourite quote from Napolean is:
If you start to take Vienna, take Vienna.
If I had the option I would write for a living. Ideally I’d write fiction that people would love and it would sell well. Less ideally I’d do technical writing. As things stand I have to stay working in the oil business, which to be fair is no great hardship so don’t all start sending me your old shoes and coupons cut from the local paper.
Before I get much older I want to find out if I can make a living as a fiction writer. I probably can’t because it is fiendishly difficult, but I want to try – firstly because I want to say I tried and found out, and secondly because the process of finding out is, at the moment, quite enjoyable. And the only way to find out, as I’m sure Napolean would agree, is to write a damned book and get it out there. So I am, or at least, I’m halfway through.
I believe two things sell fiction writing: story and style. If you stumble upon a good story then the style doesn’t matter: Dan Brown proved that. But this relies on pure luck. For me style is probably more important because if people like the style but not the story, I can dream up another story, and I reckon changing styles would be harder. Of course it would be great to have both a good style and a good story, which is what makes masterpieces what they are.
I’ve thought a lot about writing a book before, and each time I’ve started I’ve looked at the first thousand words and thought “this is crap”, referring to the style. I’ve never actually had a complete story in my head. This summer I reckoned I’d gotten one, and so I started to write.
The story is about a man in his late 30s who enters into a relationship with a woman in her early 30s who he met online, and it goes well for a while before he finds out she’s not who he first thought she was and it ends. Not very interesting, is it? Maybe not, but what I’m attempting to do is map out the thought processes of the man as the relationship develops: what he’s looking for, what he doesn’t want to see, etc. Lots of this stuff is written about women, and lots is written about Alpha-male millionaires. What I haven’t seen much written about is how men in their 30s think and what they look for in a woman from the man’s perspective. I’m also going to explore a few other themes: the effect of third-wave feminism on women in their 30s who are trawling the dating markets, addressing a few myths about what men supposedly want and alleged double standards. I have no idea if this is interesting, but I think it might be new. Only one way to find out.
As for the style? Well, I can only write one style I think. I posted an excerpt yesterday, so make of that what you will. There will be a lot of dialogue, something I’d never tried writing before last month but now I think I can do it quite well. Again, only one way to find out. If people like my style of writing then I’ll be onto a winner, because I can knock this stuff out as fast as I can think. If not, then it will be a slog because I don’t think I can switch to another without considerable effort that might not be worth it.
But the main reason for my writing a book is because, if you want to write a book, you need to write a book. Sitting around in a Paris cafe wearing a black polo-neck smoking Gauloises and talking about it isn’t going to get a book written. And I’m hoping that the second one, if I should ever write one, will be a lot easier and – if necessary – better than the first.
So, just another 40k words to go.