The Perfect Edit

It’s poetic how some things work out. After months of editing and revising my manuscript, look how many words it ended up…

Yes, some will say it’s too long for a heist-thriller and others will disagree and say they need detail and back story to really get into a novel. For me, it was just where it ended up and, for that reason, it feels right. My first thriller was finished at around 85,000 words but my new one – with the extra words – does seem to have more depth and purpose. I hope readers agree. Hint: do you want to learn about the role of AI in the greatest bank robbery of all time?

Is Your Book Cooked Enough?

We had ribs tonight—delicious ribs with meat falling off the bone and juices charred rich like treacle. It made me wonder if my book has been cooked long enough to have the same rich flavour? A book that has been slow-cooked, then fried to perfection. Is mine like that? Of course, the answer was “no” a year ago, but now is a simmering “yes.”

Full of flavour? I hope so.

A plot that sticks like a rich sauce? Perhaps.

An ending that leaves a reader full and satisfied? I can’t give that away, can I?

You see, it’s only the reader who can tell me if my book is cooked enough.

Masterful Flop Part Deux

The Great Gatsby is now recognised as a masterpiece. But, F. Scott Fitzgerald (left) never saw his book become a success. In fact, at his untimely death at the age of 44, he had earned a grand total of $13.13 in royalties. When it was published in 1925, Gatsby sold a disappointing 21,000 copies. And there were reportedly still copies from the second printing in the Scribner warehouse when Fitzgerald died in 1940. It’s shocking how long it took The Great Gatsby to be considered a classic.  It wasn’t until April 24, 1960, for example,  that The New York Times wrote: “It is probably safe now to say that The Great Gatsby is a classic of twentieth-century American fiction.”

Not only did Gatsby practically go unnoticed by American readers, but Fitzgerald himself by the end of his life was rarely, if at all, mentioned as one of America’s greatest writers. Such a perception became a harsh painful  reality for Fitzgerald in 1937 when he walked into a bookstore to buy copies of his books for his companion Sheilah Graham only to discover there were no books, not one, of his on the shelves.
Now, more than 25 million copies of “The Great Gatsby” have been sold worldwide since the novel’s original publication in 1925, while more than 15 million copies have been sold in North America alone.’’ More than 500,000 copies of  The Great Gatsby sell every year (across print and eBook editions). After all, great writing transcends place, race and time. Other publisher’s rejection comments for great books include:
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
‘an irresponsible holiday story’
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
‘an absurd and uninteresting fantasy which was rubbish and dull.’
Watership Down by Richard Adams
‘older children wouldn’t like it because its language was too difficult.’
On Sylvia Plath
‘There certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice.’
The Diary of Anne Frank
‘The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the “curiosity” level.’

A Masterful Flop

It’s a catchy title – “Flop Masterpiece” – and enough to make you want to see it. “An ambitious, budget-busting adventure-thriller set in a South American oil refinery town and its surrounding mountainous jungle, Sorcerer was intended as a loose remake of Henri-Georges Cluozot’s undisputed 1951 classic Wages of Fear. It was also well-poised to be a gargantuan flop when it was released the same summer weekend as George Lucas’ much more straightforward blockbuster Star Wars.” [source: BBC]. So, until Star Wars came along and took the limelight, Sorcerer was a masterpiece? I love the oxymoron, but I guess that, at the end of a long day, I am NOT inclined to want to see a “flop masterpiece.”

Which raises the question, “how do you know if your book is going to be a best-seller?” And, as an author, should I care? The key here, is to touch a nerve—a major social nerve; a nerve shared by millions. And that, my dear reader, is the nerve I hope to touch ever so lightly in my new thriller, or perhaps not so lightly. A masterpiece will be viewed as artistic and enduring; engaging across generations and genres. A masterpiece is never written by a young writer; it emerges from decades of experience and discovery, and years of refined editing? A masterpiece may be forgiven for having a simple plot, stretched to breaking point. Hemingway writes about an old man catching a big fish, but it is more than a well-written fishing story. The Old Man and the Sea goes beyond the sea, which helps its immortality. To quote a comment, “(The Old Man and the Sea) succinctly presents a challenging question while exploring several themes that provide insight to man’s role, suffering without complaint, and humanity’s place in the world.” Perhaps exploring the human condition is what elevates writing above the ordinary and helps it soar into the heights. 

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