Friday, April 21, 2006

Don't even go there

"The book is good. Very good."

With those words Lynne Scanlon, The Publishing Contrarian kind of made my day. Hell, my week, my month, my year, my life.

In an extraordinary act of generosity Lynne, a former publishing executive, has been reading A Half Life of One and analysing and commenting on the book in extraordinary detail. In recent weeks I've been bombarded with comments and e-mails from her.

Lynne is extremely perceptive. There are a lot of small factual mistakes in the book and I doubt if Lynne has missed any of them. One of the problems of writing and re-writing a book over an extended period (ten years or so) is that things change. When I wrote the first draft the price of oil was ten dollars a barrel and the experts were predicting it would fall to five. Now it's at seventy and those same experts say it'll go to a hundred. I took this into account in the last re-write and changed the opening scenario. Then the law of unintended consequences kicked in and I had to change lots of other things as a result. And that kicked off more consequences. So it goes. I'll fix the mistakes though, thanks to Lynne.

From a somewhat loftier perspective Lynne pointed out that there were some basic inconsistencies in the way the main character behaved, the way his personality developed. In her opinionion the book is fundamentally flawed. She's right. I hadn't realised this before, I needed another pair of eyes to point this out to me. Thankfully it's fixable. I'll fix it.

After every chapter Lynne has described her emotional reactions in vivid detail. That has given me an invaluable insight into what works in the book and what doesn't. It's also made me really think about what I'm trying to achieve in the book. Thanks to Lynne I've now got a clear idea of what the book is really about.

As you'll know if you visit her blog Lynne has extraordinary energy and vision. She ruffles feathers. She tells it like it is. Best of all she knows what she's talking about. She's not arrogant though, and she took the precaution of asking a writing friend of hers to read the book also, to give her a second opinion. When they'd finished reading they compared notes. The conclusions were pretty much the same. So thanks, Bridget. You're a star.

Where does that leave me? Another re-write is needed. Actually, I've already started. The other night I re-wrote that first chapter. I have to admit that when I finished I cried. It's beautiful. Thanks to all the help I've had it's the best prose I've ever written. I can't wait to finish the whole thing. It's going to be the best thing I've ever done in my life. I feel so happy it's unbelievable. This is why I do it. I'd forgotten. All those years of failure had clouded my inner vision.

I've had help from a lot of people with this book. Agents, readers, bloggers, strangers. Thank you all. You're amazing. Truly amazing.

Do me a favour though. Don't go read the book just yet. Give me a couple of weeks to finish the revisions. Then you can go there.

I'll be waiting for you with a big grin on my face.


  1. I'm very happy to read this post. You've made my day, too, Bill. Cheers.

  2. So pleased, I have tears, lovely to hear such a different tone in your writing. Think we'll give the 'depression' talk a miss for a few weeks/months, don't you?
    Kiss, kiss, kiss - clever man!

  3. Bridget3:40 pm

    Hello Bill,

    I just wanted to say how much I'm looking forward to reading your revised novel. You're a fabulous writer so I know the result is going to be phenomenal.

  4. Folks, what can I say? Thanks again to all of you. I'm overwhelmed by your kindness.

    Let's enjoy this good feeling together. It's an online party. Thanks so much for coming.

  5. Congratulations, Bill! I'm very happy for you. I'd stopped reading Half Life when you said you were rewriting and was wondering when I could go back to it - now I know to wait a bit longer :-)

  6. Now enjoying a rather fine wine with your name on it.
    An gwary ha tra nahen (Cornish) - The Game and nothing else!
    Let's play!!

  7. Oh dear, Minx. We seem to get pissed rather often on this blog. Pointy stick time again?

    Enjoy your Chateau Liversidge - I'm having a few myself.

  8. Ooh me 'ead!
    Never mind, I've got something else to celebrate today...I've just given birth!

  9. My God - to what?

  10. Short story bloglet or somewhere to store my crap!

  11. "Never mind, I've got something else to celebrate today...I've just given birth"


    Good work Bill, looking forward to seeing your next few updates on this.

  12. Pundy,
    Isn't it great when we get this kind of feedback ... and when it's free. I'm glad you've got some new fire in your locomotive! Does that mean I shouldn't read the pages I already printed out?

  13. Five days - I'm dying here!

  14. Christ-offer12:53 pm

    Always knew you could do it Billy.

  15. Wow, I remember reading the first seven chapters a while back. I was the only guy talkin back to ya. Now you've got a choir. Awesome!

    I got my old PC back alive and started sifting through the old bookmark, and there was Pundy. Glad to see you escalating and gaining momentum.