A few folk have asked me lately about how “TROTMH” (as I’m nicknaming The Return of the Mullet Hunter – it’s either that or “Mullet 2”) is getting on. By which I mean there really have been a few folk asking, and not that I just feel it would be nice to talk about it despite the fact nobody’s asked. And that people have been enquiring is nice. I’m chuffed and humbled (chumbled?) that there’s sufficient interest in the sequel that there’s a level of demanding enquiry. Or enquiring demand. You decide.
The short answer is that there’s no substantive news about TROTMH or indeed my other current writing project, The Next Stop. However, there are a few interesting bits of micro-progress to report regarding TROTMH, so I thought I’d give an update. And as for The Next Stop, while progress is unremarkable I thought this post would nevertheless be a good opportunity to explain a little more about my experience of the writing process.
The Return of the Mullet Hunter
Towards the end of this summer, just as I had finished the final edits of TROTMH, I noticed that Hi-Arts‘ wonderful talent development programme for writing had announced a non-fiction competition. In conjunction with a literary agency in Edinburgh they were looking for new, commercially viable non-fiction writing that could be supported and developed. Perfect timing, no? Naturally I entered.
The response I got back was a “sorry, no, but let’s meet”. I discovered in the subsequent meeting that although TROTMH wasn’t felt to be quite as commercially strong as other entries (and as a sequel to a less than storming first book about a somewhat niche concept, I can see the point), they did think there was some mileage in exploring things a little further – both for the mullet sequel and my other writing ideas.
So, long story short, I’ve submitted TROTMH to Hi-Arts’ Work in Progress critical reading service. I used Work in Progress some years back when writing my first book, and the feedback was incredibly helpful. By working with Hi-Arts this time around, the idea is to link this critical feedback with an exploration of potential marketing dimensions and other publishing options.
Obviously that’s not to assume or predict anything, and nor will there be any clear response to my Work in Progress submission for several weeks. Perhaps, though, at some point in the first half of 2013 I’ll be clear as to where I stand. If it’s in a good place regarding traditional publishing avenues, then terrific. If not, then I remain determined to self-publish if all other options seem closed. If it comes to that, it’s probable it will be in the second half of 2013.
That’ a long time away, I know, but keep watching this space for more news.
The Next Stop
With regards to my other main ongoing writing project, I’ve been really enjoying writing up The Next Stop. Given that it is a stop-by-stop journey between twenty-three railway stations, it’s not too much of a gruelling, thankless, never-ending thing to write up because the next milestone is never too far into the distance.
The problem is, though, that the occasions I’ve been able to sit down and write have been sadly few and far between. Work and various other bits and bobs of life have been incredibly busy, not least with the day job, with continuingly planning and executing new travel plans, and with trying to keep up my studying and reading of Esperanto. Among many, many other things.
Of course life is about priorities, but even with my writing as high up the list as it can be, it has simply not been possible to devote much quality time to it. An hour or so here and there does frequently present itself, but I get on much better with writing if I am able to get stuck in for a few hours at a time and experience a sense of real progress.
As such, it’s still very much early days and I’m now not convinced that my aim of the end of 2012 is remotely achievable. I’m about a third of the way through the first of four broad phases of writing that I am predicting for The Next Stop, and so I suppose I’m in a good position in that while I’ve not got as much writing done as I’d want, I at least am very clear as to the path I will be taking.
The first of these phases is quite simple in a way, basically turning my notes into a coherent prose: writing up what I scribbled along the way into something that has a vague appearance of storyline and structure.
The second will be to map what I’ve written against my photos. Sometimes, whether for speed, discretion or laziness, I found it easier to take a photo of something I saw – maybe a street scene, a road sign or an interpretation board – rather than write down details or my thoughts. This isn’t with any particular vision of the book as being illustrated with photos. The point instead is that the photos will trigger in my mind the reasons I took them, and spark some padding out or elaboration about what I did, saw and thought. Of course, it could be that they don’t trigger anything and I’m left with hundreds of meaningless, blurry and squint photos that leave me scratching my head in frustration as to their intended purpose. Hopefully not, though.
Thirdly, I’ll undertake whatever brief research I need to underpin some of the things I’ll be writing about. I intentionally (and not just because I couldn’t be bothered) avoided extensive prior research of all the places I’d be visiting. The trip was borne out of curiosity about these places I normally just rushed through on the train, and one of my guiding questions was whether each of these places would be of interest to a curious visitor, what sort of first impression they’d make, and whether having gained a sense of the place or scratched the surface of its character I would be interested in returning. That said, some retrospective research will be necessary to explain things I saw along the way or to provide a bit of background. This might include facts and figures, some brief local history, or maybe some information about particular places or buildings I visited. It will also help confirm my understanding where I am not sure that my notes or memory are sufficient.
From this I should end up with a workable draft, and so the fourth phase of work will be a number of rounds of editing. This process sounds the easiest but I imagine will be the longest. Going over the text again and again, often leaving it a while to come back afresh, is the best way to ensure that the language is right and the story flows entertainingly and engagingly. My lesson from my first book is that when you think you’ve approached a state of completion, there’s inevitably a whole heap more to do.
Once this is done, and only once I’ve drafted and redrafted a number of times, will the book be ready for sharing with anyone. That, in the first instance, is likely to be Simon, my namesake who did such a fine job of editing TROTMH earlier this year and who provided such a valuable external perspective. Upon receiving and acting upon Simon’s comments, I will only then be happy that the book might be approaching something like completeness.
And then the thoughts about publishing will kick off once more, making it feel once again like the beginning of a process rather than the end.
It’s a slow process. For any of you who very kindly find themselves in any sense of anticipation of expectation about either of these books, my thanks for your support and my apologies for the slowness. Not least if you’re one of the folk who’ve directly asked about them in recent days. Such enquiry does genuinely provide motivation.
But slow is really the operative word here. When you read about some full-time writers’ approaches to their books, they can still take several months to undertake a single stage of bringing a book into the world. For me, writing is just a sideline in a packed life, so progress is especially difficult and frustrating at times.
The main positive, though, is that when opportunities to write present themselves, it is with a sense of urgency and keenness that means I do really make the most of the time I have.
And yes, I could have got loads of book writing done in the time it’s taken me to write this blog post…