Monday, 30 June 2008

The Endless Possibilities of Parallel Niks

Here I am at work. I have a number of items on my to-do-list:

1. Write a scheme of learning for the new Media Studies A Level.
2. Mark the Year Seven Tests.
3. Mark the Year Ten Coursework.
4. Make coffee.

My decision runs thus:

I don't want to write a scheme of learning, or the year seven tests, or any coursework. I will make coffee. It means I cross one thing off my list AND will provide me with nourishment, energy and warmth.

(Now cradling coffee)

I still don't want to tackle numbers one through three. Even if there were three of me, they wouldn't get done. The three of us would just sit around drinking coffee. The only advantage is that I'd have two spares to go and rustle up some biscuits. One to use in meetings maybe. One for family gatherings. Another one could make sure the flat is tidy...

I wonder if I can find a spare me for use on Monday mornings...

I google myself.

I am looking for Spare Niks, not too many miles on the clock, one careful owner who only used him to go to the shops and back.

I'm guessing most people have tried this. I hadn't bothered.

How upsetting will it be to discover the alternate me's are all more successful?

My possibilities for Spare Niks include:

1. An Australian Realty Magnate (unlikely to be able to afford that one, although perhaps I could offer myself up as the spare. Look after his car or something. Maybe break in his new settee.)
2. A Watchmaker (would be handy for intricate tasks - could be issues of eye strain though. Too much risk of wearing out the machinery in that one.)
3. An Anarchist from New Zealand (unlikely to be useful at meetings - but that just makes it very tempting. Shipping from New Zealand could be a problem though.)
4. A 23 Year Old Woman from New York who likes 'Fliii Boys'. (Unlikely to be able to convince people that some days I am female have have changed my ethnic origin. But would be good for confusing the Census people/robot)
5. A 16 Year Old Liverpool Fan (Would be nice to be 16 again, but don't fancy having a version of me kicking about the place in a Liverpool top. Sorry.)
6. Nik Jonesさんと連絡を取る. 登録済みですか? ログイン. 名前: Nik Jones; ネットワーク: London (??)

Not too many options there I think you'll agree.

It's nice to see I have had such a broad existence though. I'm an international citizen, with at least one trade and a couple of professions. I am political, or Anti- political at least. I am still young. I have grown up with different religions and cultural backgrounds. Possibly I speak Japanese, or at least someone in Japan cares about me. I support Liverpool. Which is irritating. It upsets the original me.

The 'original' me?

Thats a tricky one. Some of those me's are older. Some are more successful...

Does this make me a spare one?

Who got there first? The Realter I think.

I am a copy of an Australian Estate Agent.

I am a copy of a watchmaker.

I am a version of an Apple Mac web technician - i didn't mention him. Sorry other me.

My next life? Hunting for 'Fliii boys', cheering on Steven Gerrard.

Coffee is gone. Free lesson almost gone. Luckily for me there is no more time to think about this.

Which one is your favourite version? Quick, quick, pick one. Are any about you? - if you're honest thats the real reason you Googled yourself. You want to feel big and important. Admit it. You resisted the blog - and now you love it. You like the attention. Be a man. Roll with it. Which one is about you?


There are six. Four are connected to this blog (vaguely). But you've found them, so there is no point in showing off is there?

My favourite, non blog, mention of the 'original' me, an actual quotation, in an actual newspaper/letter thingy.

It goes like this:

"Nik Jones from Wolsingham School said, ******[Something about the young people's experience - to be inserted]*******."

I think that sums me up nicely.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Unfavourable Comparisons

At some point last week (this is the best I can manage - days tend to roll together) I was asked to compare myself with other writers.

"Where do I see my book on the shelves? Who will it be alongside? In what section will it live?"

I hadn't really considered this. Shocking I know, because so far I've been so well prepared for all the twists and turns getting published has thrown at me...

Anyway, I felt sort of dirty comparing myself to other writers. First time novelist - how arrogant do I sound naming authors I think I compare to?

Can I claim that I am comparable to Iain Banks? Or Chuck Palahniuk? Or Bret Easton Ellis? The style is similar. But the quality?

Could it sit along 'The Wasp Factory'?

Could it be neighbours with 'Fight Club'?

Would it get on with 'American Psycho'?

As always, it seems, I wimp out.

I name names because I was asked, and because I suppose that's where the book would sit. At least for a while before they can make space on the Clearance Table.

But mainly I talk about Film Posters.

I mention Saul Bass and ask nicely for a possible riff on the North By Northwest poster. The one with the boxes, not with the plane. But less busy - dark background, urban colours.
A single silhouette in the centre.
I am told that Saul Bass is unlikely to be available. Largely because he's dead. Otherwise I'm sure he'd be game for designing my cover.
Anyway. I just have to wait and see now. The designers are designing.
A skin for my baby.

Hopefully puberty will be kind - No one ever fancies the spotty kids do they?

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Blubbering, Blurbing and Blogging. And Possibly Burping.

Problem Number One: How do you write a blurb for a novel in which you don't name the narrator?

Problem Number Two: How do you explain what your novel is about in two hundred words?

Problem Number Three: How do you produce a personal bio, using just one sentence?

Got to hand it to Tonto - They're keeping me on my toes.

I take a leaf out of my Mentor's book - note the capital letter, the slightly intimidating title which has been bestowed - and go for an extract from the opening (which is now almost sorted and is feeling much better by the way.)

It comes back very quickly.
It wasn't what they were after.

Helpfully they send me some examples, ones they've used recently to help me get into the spirit of things. They all start "Tilly is a single mother..." or "Bob has rabies..." or "Geoff has a beard and dances nightly..."

I appreciate the effort. But it don't make things much easier.

I try a new approach . I try to boil down my story to it's key features. I boil it down to it's key three words:



Fantasy. - I toy with 'Lesbian Nurses' - to keep the L thing going - but decide it would lower the tone. I am nothing if not classy, mature and highly motivated. Ask anyone.

This seems a good place to start.

Problem Number Two: How do you explain what your novel is about in two hundred words? - Done. Dead easy, sorted with one hundred and ninety seven words spare.


Problem Number One: How do you write a blurb for a novel in which you don't name the narrator?

This one is still a pain.

Eventually I find a way through - or around I should say...

I won't spoilt it though - Tonto have a version in their blog they used for the announcement of the winners - if you're really impatient.

As always, I am more concerned with myself.

One sentence?

Just one?

To describe all of me?

All of my wonderful qualities?

I will need a great many commas - and possibly some Semi Colons - to tackle this one.

Again, I boil me down to just three words.

Reduce myself

Until I am hardly even here...

Tall, dark and handsome?

Short, red and round?

Tired, scared and alone?

Excited, exhilarated and extraordinary?

Nothing really fit.

I ended up wimping out.




Well alright, not 'lover'.


Teacher, barman, occasional.

That seemed to fit.

Bizarrely it never crossed my mind to put 'Writer.'

So class, tonights homework: Sell your soul in just three words.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Admitting to People that I Exist

Scary times in Windy Ol' Consett.

Even scarier times at work.

Whispered words in the corridors:

'Nik has a blog...'

Here is the danger:

People might actually start reading what I'm writing.

Now, I know what you're thinking: This is something you'll have to get used to.
I can't deny your logic.
But it's still scary.

It's that little 'Comments' button down the bottom there. Can he cope with the pressure?
Still, on the upside, I'm not appearing on the search engines. I think I'm still safe for a while.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Birthing Pains

My manuscript came back.

This was a big deal. A really big deal.

As much as I enjoyed Caroline's book, as impressed as I was, it still scares me that she is passing comment on what I need to do to 9987. But, I've read her stuff, I have faith.

She knows what she's talking about - This is the moment of truth.

I decided before I even opened the email that I'd do what I was told. Unless some major, fundemental alterations were needed, I would be willing to tweak, to delete, to add to...


I opened the email.

I'm amazed.

My grammar is crap. I know this, although, as an English teacher it is hugely embarrassing, but otherwise it's all about consistency.

My work a day inability to manage time has crept into my prose. My incredible talent for never knowing what day it is, what the date is, and how long things take has made for a few irritating mistakes.

The story opens in autumn.

Then it's Winter.

Then Summer.

Then Autumn again.

All in the space of three weeks...

Briefly I consider blaming Global Warming.

These are minor problems. On the whole I feel relief. Positive comments make me feel all warm inside. I'm proud of my baby.

The only major reworking is the opening chapter. I can't argue with this. It's how most people decide on their purchase. Caroline even talks about it in her blog - Cover, the look, the feel - a very tactile passtime reading, that wonderful feeling of a fresh book. The sadistic thrill you get from breaking it's spine. The smile you give the shop assistant when you cast it aside.

It's all about the opening pages.

Mine aren't quite up to scratch. Can't argue with that. The very first paragraph, the conception of this dirty little love child - it must be spot on. Or it wont make many friends.


Enough of this.

There is work to be done.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

It happened on a Friday, and now my job bores me...



To start at the start would take ages, we'd be going... ooh, miles back: early eighties, shoulder pads, big, scary hair. To be honest even starting in the middle would take a while. Not as long I admit: the noughties. Good times, interesting nights. Terrifying mornings. But even so. Too long.


I'll start at the end, depending on your point of view. Think of it as reincarnation. Something was born. It grew. It lived. It's moving on to a new spiritual plain.

It happened on a Friday, and now my job bores me. Now I have something better. I hope.

On the Thursday I get rejection letters numbers thirteen and fourteen. Not the end of the world I know. Many better writers than me have suffered through many, many more. But still. It was hard. The elation of finally finishing the book, after four years of stolen hours and scribbled text, was gone. Almost a year since it was ready to leave it's family home, and still no where to go. I didn't cope well.

By Friday morning a new message was in my inbox and I stared at it through last nights fug, through the stink of rum which seeped from my pores. I was not looking forward to work. Teaching is tough. Teaching hungover worse, and no one ever offers sympathy.

This message was different. It contained a phone number.

So far my rejections had been simple and to the point. Thanks but no thanks, very sorry, blah blah. This one had a phone number. A number they actually wanted me to ring.

Cautiously I rang it.

I almost forgotten about the competition. It seemed so distant. So pointless. One more thing I would be disappointed by.

I was wrong...

Ladies and Gentlemen, please, put your hands together for one of the winners of Tonto Books New Writers Prize:

I won't lie to you. It felt great. Congrats to me, and congrats to the other worthy winner Sarah Shaw. Nicely done the two of us.
Like I said, starting at the end. I won. A publishing contract, a mentor, a new spiritual plain. No more white label rum. I'm getting brands now...
I read my new mentor's book - In Search of Adam. I was scared. I read the synopsis, I looked at the cover. I judged it, like she judged mine. It didn't seem my sort of thing.
Once again: I was Wrong.
Suddenly I'm not just excited about getting published. I'm excited about working with an author whom has very quickly become a firm favourite. The prose is addictive. I stayed in over the weekend. I read it in bed into the wee hours.
The story unfolded so naturally, so elegantly.
On the off chance anyone cares about my opinion: This is well worth a read.
So anyway.
Here we go.
You and me. Or maybe just me, no pressure.
It happened on a Friday, and now my job bores me.
And now I can tell everyone:
I am a writer.