This year my challenge is to blog an entire novel in weekly instalments. I will be doing that over on my other blog, which you can find here: http://catherine-fox-novel.blogspot.co.uk/ Sunday evening will be the slot when I upload the new mini-chapter. I will alert you all via Twitter. Follow me if you don't already: @FictionFox. If you can't be doing with all that scary social media stuff, get a young person to explain it to you and create you an account. Or rather, a middle aged person. According to my sons, Twitter is what middle aged people do because they can't get their heads round Facebook.
So why blog a novel? For several reasons. The first is that I've been living with this particular setting and cast of characters for about 7 years now. I've had several goes at casting it in novel form, but without success. This is deeply frustrating. I know there's a band of loyal fans out there wondering when I'll stop faffing about writing martial arts books and tell them instead whether Harry and Isobel ever got married (they did), and what happened to Andrew Jacks (he's fine). So after a lot of thought, and many tears, I've decided to stop trying to write a Big Important Booker Winning Novel about the Church of England, and play to my current strengths, which seem to be blogging and the gentle art of taking the piss. With the occasional foray into being serious, of course.
Oh, it's awful grim times being a mid-list novelist these days, my dears. How ever brilliantly your agent spins your writing career, potential publishers can access your sales figures in a nano-second, and see that they are being lied to. So unless you are already a celebrity, or young and 'eminently marketable' (i.e. hot), you are not going to look like a good bet to the marketing department. Obviously, if Justin Welby were abducted by aliens and the current dean of Liverpool tapped up to replace him, my agent could get a bidding war going for my shopping list. I have concluded this is unlikely on several counts. Hence the blog-a-novel idea.
The world of publishing is changing rapidly. Nobody knows what it will look like in 10 years time. Paper books? eBooks? One thing is certain, however: people will always be looking out for a rattling good yarn with convincing characters whose fate they care about. There is a huge market out there. There are a lot of good writers currently not managing to get their stuff out to their potential readers. Understandably, these writers (who carry on writing in the face of failure and rejection, because they can't not write, poor fools) are beginning to think they may as well cut out the middle man, especially if the middle man isn't buying their stuff any more.
So. My new project. For years I've been secretly jealous of Victorian novelists. Back then you were allowed to be omniscient. You were allowed to believe in things, to have a grand narrative. You were not taken out and shot for telling not showing. And you could publish your novel in serialised form. Readers could lobby on behalf of their favourite characters and suggest possible twists to the plot. They could point out the author's errors. All this will be possible this year as I write ACTS AND OMISSIONS. Initially, I will respond to any criticisms in the conventional manner of authors receiving a list of queries from a copy editor: Piss off and write your own book if you're so clever. But when I've stopped sulking, I will try to heed your advice.
I will use this Close Encounters blog to tell you all sorts of writerly things about the novel as it comes off the press. Things like 'Where do you get your ideas from?' For example, I got the title from the small print of a job application form, which said something like 'You have a legal obligation not to harm yourself or others by your acts and omissions'. It has a nice theological ring, I think. Besides, 'Devices and Desires' was already taken.