Thursday, 18 March 2010

Stay Cool, Stay Unpublished.

While it would be easy for me to sit here and pontificate about what I think I know about good writing, the truth is, I'm unpublished, and while you may have read some of my work, I suspect the majority of my massive blog-following haven't.

So with the intention of giving you, my blog-reader, genuine value, I've decided to post on a subject of which my credentials are impeccable, something which I have deep and penetrating knowledge of, something which none of you can doubt I know exactly what I'm talking about - being unpublished.

The truth is, any idiot can get published - all it takes is hard-work and dedication - what's really hard is staying true to yourself, releasing the unpolluted, artistic genius inside you - when every one else is prostituting themselves to the fickle whims of the general.

Stanislavski once said that you need to love the art within yourself, not yourself within the art. Tracey Emin said, I am my art. Who you going to believe?

Here are my tips on keeping it real and staying unpublished.

Write an inaccessible and unreadable novel

To be truly great, a novel must be impossible to read, and while a whole book could be written about how to achieve this, a genuine artist hasn't got time to read, so I'll give some easily digestible tips on how to do it.

Focus on the first page, if you get this right, the reader won't read past it, and you can put any old drivel beyond it. The key is to make the writing dull, flat and lifeless - take the essential elements of drama, and avoid them at all costs. There's no place here for character or story, description, foreshadowing, atmosphere or intrigue - include these, and people may be inclined to read on - besides, these things require knowledge of craft, craft implies work and is therefore menial, and not the objective of the true artist.

You'll often hear the maxim 'show don't tell', but a genuine artist knows this is poppycock - a genuine artist tells it how it is, because he knows best right?

Here's an example of a great opening line - 'The person attended the event, and felt nothing at all.' This succeeds on so many levels - a character is introduced, but we learn nothing about them, there is a complete absence of description; something happens, but we don't know what. The narrative voice tells us what the character feels, and it's nothing at all. So much achieved with so little. Genius.

Free yourself from restrictive synopsis expectations

Despite all this, there's still always the possibility that someone will hail your novel as a post-modern masterpiece and thereby compromise your cult-following of one, so best to head that popularity off at the pass with a truly artistic synopsis.

The good news is, if you've followed my advice in the previous section, it will be nigh impossible to write a traditional synopsis as nothing will actually happen in your story. Still, you need to write something, so this is the place to indulge back-story and description (preferably static), maybe even include a flash-back or background that has no real relevance to the MS - also, try to focus on secondary characters, or characters that don't even turn up in the MS - you're a creative writer, be creative.

Create a truly unique query letter

Mainstream advice will encourage you to pitch your novel first in your query, but we're not talking mainstream, we're talking integrity, so you need to make the entire query about yourself. It's also worth remembering that agents work for you - so I'd suggest pointing this out to them as early as possible in the query. Remember, without you, they're nothing. For a really powerful touch try severing a body-part and including that in the submission pack - if that doesn't convince them of your artistic credentials, nothing will.

Hopefully, there's some method in this madness.


  1. Ha. This is a funny post. If you write a query letter all about yourself -- you will definitely hit the mark on staying unpublished. :)

    Love that Stanislavski quote. I'm going to have to write that one down.

    P.S. Ah, I've found another IT person who writes! Good luck on the balancing...

  2. When I first read ths it made me smile, then it made me think about comments I have received or read about.

    For example, it's a cliche to begin a novel with a description of weather - but who came up with that, why is it so important to try and avoid. I know someone may have a plausible answer, but conforming is not my middle name, after all I too am a great unpublishd apart from work related articles & research - but even that doesn't count in the author world i suppose.

    Let's fly the flag for the brave unpublished to like to offer a different angle on the world and in novels.

  3. I don't buy the weather rule - The English Patient starts with a wonderful weather opening, and look what happened to that - Booker Winner, Oscar winning film etc. There's always an exception to every rule, and frankly, if the writing is excellent, the rules don't apply. Having said that, I think as a writer you have to look these 'rules' in the eye, attempt to learn them or understand why they came about, and once you are fluent in them, dismiss them at will!

  4. music to my ears - I was always a rebel!

  5. I don't buy the weather rule either. I'd never even heard of it until a few weeks ago. Henry James didn't think there was anything wrong with starting The Europeans with his MC looking out of the window at snow, and Charlie Dickens wrote some novel or other that began with the fog hanging in the riggings of ships on the Thames.

    The only rule I know is this: enthrall the reader, any way you like.

    (Or be cool and unpubished... fun post!)