Reaching Double Figures…

22 Feb

As regular readers of this blog will know, I spent six years writing a long (150,000 word) and complex war novel. It has yet to be published. I’ve made some attempt (thus far unsuccessfully) to interest publishers and agents. And I’ve equivocated over the self-publishing route. To be perfectly honest, it’s purely the writing that I enjoy. It’s almost – and yet not quite – a matter of indifference to me whether it’s published or not.

That’s not to say, though, that I don’t want my work to be read. And this week, as my tenth reader finished reading the book, its audience reached double figures. That’s not quite as insignificant as it sounds – you might be surprised how few copies some conventionally published books sell. This particular reader admired the book but didn’t enjoy it. Feeling morose when he’d begun it, he found that its theme – the futility of war – depressed him further. It’s not an easy read but I wouldn’t have it any other way. And half of my readers have loved it (see here and here) and that in itself has made it worthwhile writing. Only one so far has thought that I’d have no chance of seeing it published traditionally. For the moment, though, it would seem that she’s right…

Meanwhile, my new novel is edging slowly toward the six-figure mark (I envisage the finished artefact coming in at around 100,000 words). I’ve been out at the writing den over the last few days and have pushed it forward a little further. I’m still unconvinced about it, though. It’s a considerable departure from its predecessor – no bad thing, I think – but it remains to be seen if its experimental structure and unconventional narrative streams can be pulled together or not.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The upstairs study area at the writing den

I’m going to  leave you with a short digressive episode from my war novel to afford you a glimpse of what those ten readers have seen.

R for Robert had somehow made it back from Happy Valley, across the Low Countries and over the North Sea on one engine, having had her fuel tanks punctured by heavy flak above Nölk. The bomber had finally come down in a field outside the village of Newton-next-Holme, some three miles short of the main runway at Norton Heath. In this there was nothing remarkable. Aircraft crashed regularly within a short distance of their home station. The countryside around an airfield would generally be strewn with the wreckage of lost machines. What had been unexpected were the findings of the crash investigation party. They’d found the usual shards of twisted metal, a wing section here, part of the tailplane there, the ruptured fuel tanks that had brought about its demise, broken and burnt-out items of equipment, all scattered across a quarter mile radius. Of the crew, however, there had been no trace. 

In his report, the officer leading the investigation had eventually come down on the side of the autopilot theory. Perhaps fearing the worst for his badly damaged plane, the pilot had issued the order to evacuate. Once the rest of his crew had baled out over the east coast, he had handed over to the autopilot so that he too might effect his escape. There were, though, two gaping holes in the evidence supporting this interpretation of events. Firstly, not only had there been no sign of the crew at the crash site, no bodies or parts thereof had been found further afield either. And secondly, it took no account of certain additional, unexplained items uncovered among the wreckage. In particular, it ignored the discovery of a number of objects resembling mechanical limbs. It had looked like a consignment from a highly advanced manufacturing facility specialising in prosthetics (something for which there would have been a more than healthy demand in the circumstances that prevailed).  One of the investigators had found something that looked like an electronic eye. Strangest of all had been the pilot’s control wheel. It had turned up in a ditch, still gripped by an artificial hand that looked as though it had been made out of pieces from a particularly sophisticated Meccano set. The men involved in the clear-up operation had generated their own theories.  Some were convinced that it was the work of the Pilotless Aircraft Section. Others had looked for extra-terrestrial explanations. “Bull crap,” the officer in charge had commented when they’d confronted him with their suspicions. One of them had looked up the appropriate entry in the station logbook. R for Robert was one of the squadron’s reserve aeroplanes. There was no record of any crew having been assigned that bomber on the date in question. Though they’d known not to press the matter further still they suspected that the officer had authored a whitewash. 

All text and images © PSR 2014

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4 Responses to “Reaching Double Figures…”

  1. Mari Biella February 23, 2014 at 8:35 am #

    Congratulations on reaching your tenth reader, Paul – it is indeed a milestone. And keep trying to interest publishers, if that is the route you want to take. I don’t really know what publishers are interested in these days (apart from profits, obviously :-)), but I loved ‘Mayflies’, and I think there are many more people out there who would enjoy it.

    What’s most important, though, is that you keep doing what you love. I think that’s something that people often forget about, and yet it’s the most important thing.

  2. Paul Sutton Reeves February 23, 2014 at 9:16 am #

    Hi Mari and thanks for your kind comments and congratulations.

    I suspect that there are others out there who might take some pleasure from what I’ve written. The difficulty is finding a way to connect with them. The publishing industry seems to have become an impenetrable fortress and finding one’s ‘target audience’ through self-publishing is the stuff of needles and haystacks. I don’t want to become a social media self-publicist, constantly trumpeting the merits of my own work.

    I’m happy to publicise ‘Loving Imogen’, though, which readers of this post would do well to check out!

  3. rondita March 6, 2014 at 11:29 am #

    Wow, 6 years and 150,000 words!!! You should be extremely proud of yourself 🙂 Good luck with the publishing process!

    • Paul Sutton Reeves March 6, 2014 at 2:16 pm #

      Thanks for the kind comments, Rondita. There was a lot of work involved, that’s for sure…

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