THE CASE OF THE MISSING NOVEL

“So, where’s this novel, then?”

It was a question. Although the enveloping twittermist that has recently befogged my brain was  a pea souper, I recognised it as a question. Good so far. Usually, only a glass of Islay single malt invites such clarity.

I looked everywhere. I even looked under William the cat, suspicious that he might be concealing my manuscript as payback for my underhand concealment of a jelly baby in a piece of tuna.  It was not under, or in, William.

It took me a little while to remember that my manuscript was not a physical item and didn’t exist at all except in some electronic backwater on my laptop’s hard drive. This failure to immediately remember was not, hopefully, the beginning of Alzheimer’s, but rather the result of the next novel having a wild party at neuron central.

There is a big box in my garage. In it there are physical manuscripts as diverse as a Technicolor dreamcoat: scripts, screenplays, short stories, poems, rants, a letter to Father Christmas written when I was a mere 35 and merry on Lagavulin single malt (I never did get a Caribbean island), every piece of commercial copy I have written, several incomplete novels and a radio play plagiarised a short time after submission. At least they changed the characters’ names, if not the plot or the jokes: a metaphor for life, perhaps?

It is both comforting and saddening to open this box, like reading old love letters and remembering the girls I loved, those I lost or misplaced and the one I kept. Or rather, kept me. The writing was of its time, as were the girls and together they stay in the past but I remember both with fondness. I would usually let the girls out of the box when they began to complain about the facilities.

“So, where’s this novel, then?”

A lovely person with great taste who, coincidentally, follows my blog, had DM’d me on Twitter with this question, which forced me to consider why a novel that should have been out in March was still not published.

The main reason is that it hasn’t been edited properly by a proper editor like wot it shudda bin. I did have an editor, who turned out to be less an editor than a clone of Genghis Khan when he was really mad, but we parted after 80 pages. Irreconcilable differences. One being that my editor wanted my novel to be a different novel from the one it was and I wanted it to be the one I had written, but neater.

My second reason is that I am a naturally lazy bugger. I can sit for days listening to the sound of wood worm chewing the oak beams in my house.  I can spend many hours staring at utilities bills knowing they are written in ancient Assyrian but that studied concentration will magically enable me to understand why an energy company wants to steal increasingly large amounts of my money, even when the price of oil drops. And, like most writers I can travel for months, even years, in the country of the mind searching for stories and characters to fulfil that inner urge to scribble stuff.

My third reason is that as I reread my virtual .mss for the nine-hundredth time my characters began to change. Now, I could have ignored their screams and ploughed on, but they were right to change, so the story changed.

Time passed.

More time passed.

Then I joined Twitter and time laughed at me, most days. Haha, it went.

All these perfectly logical reasons for not completing are excuses. Nothing more.

“So, where’s this novel, then?”

Currently, it’s in seven parts and is 134,000 words long. It’s exciting, multi-layered and quite scary in places with one or two naughty, Old English words and some quite rude sequences. It deals with themes that have always fascinated me: time, the supernatural, fear, chaos, English history, and the persistence of human love in the face of overwhelming odds. I’ve tried to make it intelligent and adult in its treatment of the themes, but given the state of my brain, this fanciful idea may be an illusion. It needs joining together and then ‘kindleising’ before it goes on Amazon where real readers and not just my beta readers will love it, loathe it or ignore it. If readers buy it and love it, I will be delighted. If they buy it and do not love it I will shrug, become momentarily depressed and then carry on writing the next one. If they ignore it I will be puzzled for seven days, at the end of which almost biblical period I will remember that I am a writer and not a professional salesman.

Of course, none of this obfuscation answers the question.

“So, where’s this novel, then?”

In answer to my blog reader I can say honestly, truthfully and without a shadow of prevarication… I don’t know.

It’s in my head, it’s on my laptop, it’s in the ether. But it’s not in my box.

And that is the difference between it and those incomplete but wonderful progeny currently settling down into old age in the garage.

This one will be published and it doesn’t really matter when. There is no rush because even if I drop dead tomorrow some kind family member will publish it, eventually, in memoriam.

So, it may be out soon, or later than soon.

My characters are almost happy in their revised roles and I am almost happy with them. They are old friends and will never be forgotten, even the incredibly evil ones.

Sooner or later, we will face the world together, pull the rabbit from the hat and go “Haharrr!” in a masculine voice reminiscent of Robert Newton as Long John Silver in Treasure Island (1950) but avoiding adding ‘me hearties’ or ‘Jim, lad’,  since those phrases represent the wrong type of pirate.  You will understand, if you read my novel.

And when we have said that we will get on with living. I, in my Derbyshire cottage for a limited time, my characters in the minds of readers, forever.

To begin is half the work, let half still remain; again begin this and  thou wilt have finished.

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

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About J.D.Hughes

Fiction writer. Supernatural Horror Mystery AND SOON THE SONG. Supernatural Writer of supernatural thrillers, NORTHMAN, AND SOON THE SONG on Amazon and three short stories: BOMBER, ISSUE 49 and THE 500 on Amazon and Smashwords. New novel to be published mid 2018, but on current performance might be posthumously...
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27 Responses to THE CASE OF THE MISSING NOVEL

  1. K. S. Bowers says:

    Ah, I love this and I really love William the Cat. However, I would go mad listening to wood worms. :S

    Like

  2. J.D.Hughes says:

    Thanks, K. What’s wrong with mad? And at least the wood worm are not sending out for a KFC 🙂

    Like

  3. Mark says:

    Great post! I tried a Lagavulin as you mentioned and loved it. Surprising as Im not a great fan of whiskey. Maybe if you drink enough of it you THINK you’ve got the Caribbean island 🙂

    Ive read all your short stories and Im looking forward to your novel. Is there any chance of seeing a few pages on the blog, mate? The teaser you put on makes it sound like my kind of read.

    Like

    • J.D.Hughes says:

      Now you have been exposed to the single malt you are lost to lesser beverages, Mark! Next try a Laphroaig and see what you think.

      Yep, there is every chance of seeing a few pages. I’m hoping to put them on the blog a few weeks before the book release, so the discriminating folk who follow my blog can get first sight. Mmm, I suppose it was a teaser, but unintended. Having said that, maybe I should be doing that sort of thing – what do you, as a reader, get from such blatant promotion?

      Like

      • Mark says:

        I don’t mind promos because I usually get an idea of what the books about and then make my mind up if i want to read it. No offence but I might read your samples and not want to go on with the book. It’s not likely because I know your work from your free books, but it might happen. My gf bought 50 Shades and I read ten pages and couldn’t read anymore because (not to mince words) it was crap and written by a 12yr old!

        I’ll try the other whiskey you recommend, Cheers!!!

        Like

  4. lesleypr says:

    Oh, this is genius! I too have a novel MIA – but I fear it will still be wandering in the wilderness somewhere long after your book finds its way home! I hope it turns up soon. When it does, strap it down, slap it on the cover and threaten to set William the cat on it and its characters, should they ever decide to go awol again!

    And, by the way, William the cat is ace!

    Like

    • J.D.Hughes says:

      Thank you Lesley and welcome to my blog! I hope your novel has been picked up by an undiscovered tribe and adopted by the chief, later to appear as a mysterious best seller on, appropriately, Amazon. As for mine, I am hopeful that my characters are satisfied with me and willing to appear at 501,026 in the Knitting Patterns for Vikings Quantum Theory Thriller category of the Amazon charts.

      I passed your comment about William onto William, but he was digesting a stolen tuna sandwich and not amenable to compliments, the sourpuss.

      And, by the way, the piece on your blog was more than ace. Truly.

      Like

  5. Lisa says:

    That was so funny, JD and so true. As you know I’m in the middle of my novel and I get exactly the same feelings, and like you I often look at the gas bill as if it was written by gerbils. But I’ve got to say you are suffering from what my boss calls slippage and you need to get a handle on it before it all slips away. I am waiting to read this novel, so you owe it to me to publish it soon or I will become a stalker!

    I read your review of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods on Goodreads and coudn’t agree more with your summary. I read it five years ago and it didn’t impress me, it felt like a lot of really good ideas kinda bunged together without much development, but it wasn’t an an awful read, just unfinished.

    Anyway, get that novel out!! (Please).

    Like

    • J.D.Hughes says:

      Lisa, you crack me up – gerbils indeed!

      The novel is not far away now: about three feet, but covered in axle grease, so that may account for the slippage. You will be the first to know when it’s actually launched. Apart from me, of course.

      The crit of “American Gods” was written from admiration for Neil Gaiman’s imagination and a measure of disappointment, particularly of the ending, but it is nevertheless a lot better than I could have done.

      I can’t wait for you to finish your WIP so I can harry you, too 😉

      Like

  6. Lisa says:

    You think I’m joking about the gerbils? British Gas is staffed by gerbils or maybe they just sound like gerbils when I complain on the phone. Neil Gaiman? If I compare one of your short stories to American Gods I dont think you have anything to worry about! I wish I could write like you but when I read my work back it sounds weak though my friends say I worry too much. How do you get your beta readers?

    Like

  7. Julia Hughes says:

    Thanks for the giggle! Look forward to the release of the novel with no-name. Lisa, ask for beta readers on Goodreads, shout out on twitter or try the Kindle Boards, or World Literary Cafe. Then again you could always do what one of the authors I currently beta read for did – choose one of your previous reviewers at random & say ‘tag – you’re it!’.

    Like

    • J.D.Hughes says:

      Great advice from Julia, Lisa – all are good ways to get beta readers.

      As for sounding weak, with respect you are not the best person to judge. I’m not the bees knees as a beta reader but if you want to send me a few pages I’ll tell you if I think it’s weak or not. One of my betas found a big, flabby section in my novel I’d missed in entirety. On re-reading it I realised it was not just flabby but redundant – slash and burn…330 words down to 20.

      Julia, welcome to my blog and good to have you here!

      Like

  8. mwheelaghan says:

    ha ha ha! Just to add my wee bit, i have used bete readers and found them really helpful – though a painful experience too 😉 Writing takes as long as it takes in my limited experience. Onwards and looking forward to reading a page or two one day soonish!

    Like

    • J.D.Hughes says:

      Thanks for visiting, Marianne; good to see you here 🙂 The pain you mention is familiar, but it’s a good pain. Maybe not at the time, though! It’s worthwhile remembering that non-familial beta readers are not always right, as copy editors are not always right, but they are most of the time because they are unafraid of giving offence. Does being cruel to be kind figure in your writing classes, or are you gentle with your students?

      Like

  9. Terry Tyler says:

    Most excellent post, JD, and I too would like to see a few pages of it! x btw – I have lots of blue folders, getting a bit musty now, filled with novels I wrote 15-20 years ago. I found one the other day that I had forgotten existed. About 6 months it took me to write, back in 1995, & I’;d FORGOTTEN IT. It was a good idea, though, and will become the basis of the-one-after-next – there!!! BTW – having thought current one was finished I read it on the KIndle, went WAAAAAHHHH, and realised it needed another edit – after which I SHALL be readng The 500 – or will be as soon as I have my KIndle back – I left it in Northampton Travelodge on Friday…..

    Like

    • J.D.Hughes says:

      Thank you, Terry, you’re very kind.

      Ah, the blue folders! Isn’t it good to revisit the ideas and the beliefs you had back then and realise that although you may have changed, the core version of you has not and the ideas, if not the writing, are still the same? Or maybe you find the opposite?

      Back in the early ’80s I wrote a TV movie script (Almost England 1984) about The Troubles in Northern Ireland from the perspective of a soldier of 3 Parachute Regiment – the BBC were only addressing the debate from one side – and reading it recently made me feel quite emotional. It reminded me of how I felt before commercial writing submerged me in flogging JCBs and soap powder, not moral principles or that old trickster, truth.

      Nobody should have to sleep in a Travelodge, and never in Northampton. The loss of your Kindle is punishment from the gods!

      Like

  10. julietmchugh says:

    But without Twitter, I might not have found your blog and discovered what a wonderful way you have with words, which prompts me to investigate further. Twitter does eat time for breakfast, lunch and tea and for generous snacks in between. But you can close it temporarily, I’ve discovered and it’s still there later. Keep writing – I need to see more!!

    Like

  11. J.D.Hughes says:

    Welcome, Juliet, you are so kind! I’m prompted to think you my be one of my children, or at the very least a relative with an eye on my revised will, but thank you even if you are.

    Twitter has opened my eyes to social media, slavery and mind-numbing banality (mine) all at the same time. The idea of closing it and not being able to speak to some genuinely pleasant people who are obsessed with words, on an almost daily basis, is now unthinkable, but I take your point.

    Thanks for the encouragement, I wish you the same 🙂

    Like

  12. dmculpepper says:

    If the characters cry out for change, then there’s a good reason to put off publication. If the plot cries out for tweaking, then there’s another good reason to put off publication. If, as you say, you’re a lazy bugger, then you have a third good reason. Yes, after you publish you can easily un-publish with just a click, but….. to publish is to commit, and commitment is always little scary. I hope you publish your novel soon. From what little I’ve heard, it sounds like a wonderful story and your fans are eager for it!

    Like

    • J.D.Hughes says:

      Wise words. Thank you for your comments and for visiting my blog. The novel has an editor now, so I’m hopeful that it will be out soon.

      Of course, the characters might complain again and I’ll feel obliged to listen, but maybe it’s time they accepted the inevitable!

      Like

  13. Awesome! From what I’ve seen, the best way for a good novel to emerge from the editing process is for an almost symbiotic relationship between the writer and the editor. Blessings on you, you book and your new editor! Judging by the books posted on the side, I look forward to reading it.

    Like

    • J.D.Hughes says:

      I couldn’t agree more, Connie. In a way it’s like a marriage. Sadly my first editor marriage ended in acrimony and the realisation that it was mere infatuation, but I have high hopes of my second! Thank you sincerely for your blessings and for visiting. I hope you will stop by again 🙂

      Like

  14. MarinaSofia says:

    Thank you for visiting my blog – and I’m really glad to have discovered yours – and I like the way you write, but instead of distracting yourself with trawling the internet for other writing blogs… where’s the novel? (Sorry, just talking to myself there…)

    Like

    • J.D.Hughes says:

      Thank you too Marina and welcome! I really enjoyed the poem and would like to read more.

      You suffer from my problem. If it’s not Twitter it’s blogs or what I fondly imagine is ‘research’. At least with writing blogs and Twitter I find lots of talented people. Research is a never-ending story of procrastination and caffeine overdose. If you’re on Twitter or Goodreads, look me up!

      Like

  15. This post is delightful.

    -aniko

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