Life is not a novel but a road movie. There is no script. We make it up as we go. No director. The audience is ourselves. The galaxy swirls. We curtsy and bow. We make up rules and try to live by them. This road movie is heading off into new dimensions.
My fiction writing is going crap. I am not getting published. I need to evaluate my style. I need to re-evaluate what I am doing.
I have a thousand handouts from my Rock course. It is obvious. I need a break from fiction to do something different. The obvious thing is to bring my Rock Music notes together into one huge definitive history of Rock. There are hundreds of histories out there but they are all crap. There needs to be a definitive version. I have the bones of it!
I set to work. It is easy. All the graft has been done. I trace the history and evolution through from 1900 to 1984, Country Blues and Irish Jigs to Punk and Toasting. I include little pen pictures of all the major exponents, seminal influences, precursors, obscure stuff, political and social issues. I illustrate it with flow diagrams. Finally, it is complete. I have the whole thing complete in 1500 pages making up four volumes. I am happy. It does the job and allows me the room to develop my own pet ideas, vent my spleen and do justice to unsung heroes like Roy Harper and Captain Beefheart. I even bring in my Beat poetry and literature. It’s all there. I call it ‘Rock Strata’.
I send it off.
A Literary Agent writes back – ‘This is good – I have someone interested! Come up to London to meet him.’
I rush up to London and we meet. The publisher is impressed. He wants to go ahead. He will be in touch.
He gets in touch. Yeah. It is brilliant. He will publish.
There is only one snag. It is too long. It is not viable as a publishing project. The finances, blah, blah, blah. Costs. Return. Expense. No profit. Blah, blah, blah. I really know my stuff.
In short, it needs to be cut down. He suggests 120 pages is about right. The publisher really loves the flow diagrams. Could I base it around that?
I am confused. We are obviously talking about a different book here. Do I want to do that?
I decide I do.
The summer holidays are on the horizon. I lock myself away, after all, I am going to be published. I have to devote myself to my art. Liz has to look after the kids and manage the house. She agrees.
I work feverishly to get it all down to 150 pages based entirely around the flow diagrams. I call this one ‘Rock Streams’. It is very different from the first one but I am satisfied with it. I send it off.
He is delighted. 150 pages is not ideal but it will do. He thinks that the flow diagrams are great and the writing is excellent. I need to go down to Devon to finalise, sign and discuss details.
I set off. On the way an old nutter pulls out in front of me from a side road and runs me off the road. I career up on to the pavement at 60 MPH and nearly smash through a wall. He doesn’t even stop. I give chase. The fucker nearly killed me! I catch him up and he pulls over. We have an animated discussion until my heart rate slows a little.
I arrive a bit stressed out and exhausted. My newfound editor shows me around. We talk contract and negotiate the deal. I sign. I drive back four hundred miles home. The deal’s not much – £300 advance and 9% of all copies over the first 1000. It is not going to make me a millionaire. It is not even going to give me a return on the time put in. I might claw back maybe 10p per hour. But that is not the point.
I am going to be published.
November trundles into December and no cheque arrives. We have spent the advance that hasn’t yet arrived on the kids’ Christmas presents. We are desperate for the cash. I ring, I write. ‘Yes it’s in the post should be there in the next day or so.’
Christmas comes and New Year and no cheque.
Eventually, I get a sheepish letter. ‘Sorry. Project cancelled. Board reject idea. First time this has ever happened.’
I chuck the book in the bottom drawer and never look at it again.
Some are good decisions.
I have a good script for life. I have an idea that might work. It doesn’t hang around supernatural creatures that poke around with human destiny. It does involve freedom and difference. It does work through politics. It has some good outcomes to work towards. It is based around fairness and justice. It’s a very human plot that does not need tarting up with dogma and superstition. It is based on intelligence. It does revolve around empathy, respect, responsibility, tolerance and the right to be crazy and get pissed. There are no wars and cruelty in this plot. There’s plenty of love and argument and plenty of things to make and improve.
I like it lots.
Nobody goes hungry in my plot. Nobody is tortured. No animals become extinct. It’s very positive.