Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Cut The Fucking Crap!

Well, that's it. Yet another edit of Hunter winging its way through Yahoo space to the agent. 8,000 words less than the original version, but still a decent 145,000. Slap bang in the middle of all literary agents' busiest time of the year - the approach to the London Book Fair. Apparently my whimsical sense of humour is fine for self-publishing but perhaps not so suited to the more traditional market, especially when it's stuck in the middle of a tense scene.

Having just completed a 98-hour week, I took some time to reflect, over a few buckets of red wine, as to what it means to have an agent. Am I successful now? As I troll the Twitterverse and read posts by these excited new authors who have just signed an agency agreement and are therefore going to join this society and that society, to give them added credence, I think to myself...get a fucking grip, luvvie!  Nothing has changed. There's nothing to brag about. All you have is a supporter with good connections and a lot more knowledge than you. Someone who will assist with editing, to polish your turd and roll it in a bit of glitter. You still haven't made any money or sold any more books. Get over it! Come back and join the rest of us on Earth.

Just one of the thousands of cool and hip authors out there
who don't want to be my friend :(

I used my Twitter account the other day to try and appear professional by following some newly-published authors, but the fuckers didn't 'follow' me back, so I removed their sorry arses from my computer screen. I now follow zero people. Which means I'm missing out on weather updates from Britain and numerous links to Guardian and other left-wing articles, but to be honest, I don't give a shit. They're welcome to their little cliques and retweets of each others gushing reviews. because while they're pissing about doing that, maybe knocking out 500 words a day, I've got my head down banging away on the keyboard like a maniac, pacing back and forth, tearing open the darkest parts of my mind for ideas, and guzzling loads of wine.

I like my agent. God, that sounds so pretentious 'my agent', like I'll get my people to call your people, yah? But I do. He's great. He's Irish and appears to be a little like me in his no-bullshit approach to doing things. During our first phone call, he mentioned 'whimsical' scenes in the book, as I talked about above. He then went on to politely suggest I reconsider some of them. The conversation went a little like this...

Agent: I think some of your whimsical, flights of fancy scenes are possibly out of context in the midst of a highly charge and tense scene.

MLS: Such as?

Agent: Such as when the inspector and DCI have kept a vital piece of information from DS Porteous and she wants to know what it is, as does the reader. Then you go off into a comic strip from The Beano.

MLS: Is that a bad thing? It relieves the tension.

Agent: That's not the point to relieve the tension. Not in the middle of the tense climax.

MLS: Should I remove it?

Agent: [tiptoeing around the situation as he isn't sure if I'm a luvvie] I think, if you're happy to remove it, then perhaps, yes.

MLS: Should I remove more of the whimsical events that take place in the middle of serious situations? Like the prison officer who looks like a female Spongebob on steroids?

Agent: [Still being polite] I would think about revising that one, too.

MLS: [And I meant this. I wasn't bothered in the slightest] Why don't I cut out all of the stupid stuff?

Agent: [A sigh of relief] Well...

MLS: No, seriously, just tell me. Be honest. Should I strip it all out.

Agent: Yes!

MLS: Every last bit?

Agent: YES! Get rid of the whole fucking lot. It's ridiculous!

He didn't actually say that last bit, but I think he was glad we weren't going to spend weeks arguing over degrees of whimsicality. I now have a huge document entitled 'Hunter - Cutting Room Floor - The Crap Bits.' I have pasted the above mentioned comic strip scene at the end of this blog, for those of you desperate enough to even consider wasting your time reading it.

One thing I hate, especially when I'm busy, is an email which goes on and on and on until the sender eventually gets to the point. So here's an example of one I received from my the agent the other day. I had to agree to the wording of a synopsis for Hunter, which was brilliant by the way, so I told him so. And he replied.




Seriously. No messing about. Just that. I'm sure as our working relationship develops, messages will become somewhat condensed...


I love it. No air kisses. No luvvieisms. Just pure 100% business. And that brings me to my point. Business. That's all it is and all it ever will be. A cold hard business. When a publisher signs a new writer, someone inevitably gets dropped. Only the strong, the creative, and profitable will survive. Many authors spend months or years having agents and no book deals, and they can belong to every writers society on the fucking planet. Someone drinking champagne at his book launch tomorrow may be the barman in three years time, who knows? Success rates are low and I'm sure survival rates are even lower. 

So, no. I'm not hosting an 'I got an agent' banquet. All I'm doing is getting on with business, and I'm 20,000 words into it already.




Here's the crap bit: Remember, the atmosphere is very tense. This is a major murder investigation involving a terrifying serial killer. DS Porteous needs to know what has been discussed behind her back...and then. Ta Da!

The Mysterious Case of the Misplaced Male Information.
By Liz Porteous (author).

Detective Inspector Anchor squirmed in his chair as their eyes locked.
She tried, God how she tried, not to give him any telltale sign of how she felt inside. The smile remained on her face, but started to twitch in the left-hand corner, quickly spreading to her eye. Her cheeks began to ache.
“Well, it’s like this…” he said.
She could see he was obviously embarrassed, almost hear his mind racing beneath that onion-like dome. Cogs engaging and whirring, like an observatory telescope moving into position, before the roof slides apart. Or the Numskulls from the Beano comic she’d once seen as a tiny girl. Her parents had hidden it in a plastic box on the kitchen floor, and buried it under some white gravel and awful tasting chocolate, next to the cat food and a plastic scoop. She’d only noticed it because Dennis the Menace’s face was still sticking out, albeit a little scratched.
After unearthing this buried treasure and whilst feasting on the meat-flavoured confectionary, she’d become engrossed in the reality that was before her. Your head is filled with tiny offices and little men control everything you do.
She could feel her bottom stinging and the howls of “she’s only gone and eaten the bloody cat shit!” as she imagined DI Anchor’s brain-staff running around in panic.
‘What are we going to tell her?’ The manager’s voice boomed across the PA system.
‘Tell her it slipped our mind,’ called Charles from the White Lies department.
‘She’ll never believe that,’ said the newly-appointed Head of Reality.
‘So just tell her the truth,’ cried an exasperated Norman, Chief of Accounting.
 The End

Sometimes, I even amaze myself.

Disclaimer: ML Stewart acknowledges that not all authors read The Guardian and hold extreme left-wing views, although most do.