Saturday, May 11, 2013

What I Learned About Writing By Writing, Part 3

In the last part, I talked about my entry into the computer gaming industry and how I learned to write interactive fiction. It was 1986. I wanted to write prose fiction and come up with another book. I was still working in theatre, and in fact directed some shows and composed music for other works in the latter half of that decade. 

My published work, The James Bond Bedside Companion, was still selling well and had established me as something of a "James Bond expert," whatever that is. Remember, in the mid-80s, there was no Internet. Bond fans had to communicate through fan clubs, printed newsletters and fanzines, and conventions. I became involved with the American James Bond 007 Fan Club (I became Vice President) and contributed articles to the fanzine, "Bondage." :) I also made friends with the folks at the UK fan club, and contributed articles to their fanzine, "007." The Bedside Companion was sold to a British publisher, and I began working on an update for a 1988 publication--it would be published for the first time in the UK in '88, and a new updated edition would come out in the U.S.

The people who ran Ian Fleming's literary business (at the time it was called "Glidrose Publications"--now it's called "Ian Fleming Publications Ltd.") remained in contact. Peter Janson-Smith was the Chairman of Glidrose, and he also acted as Ian Fleming's literary agent when the author was alive. I suggested to Peter that I write a James Bond stage play. The idea intrigued him. The only Fleming title that could possibly be adapted to the stage was Casino Royale, because it's set mostly in interiors and doesn't have epic action sequences. Coincidentally, it was the only title to which Glidrose owned stage rights--everything else was owned by EON Productions, the company that made the films. So Glidrose actually commissioned me to write a Bond stage play based on Casino Royale. When it was done, I directed a staged reading in New York that was very well received. However, due to a number of reasons, Glidrose chose not to pursue a full production of the play. In subsequent years, Glidrose/IFPL sold the remaining rights to EON, so now the film company owns the production rights to my play. It will most likely never be properly produced, so it's one of those "lost" relics of 007 lore. However, I was paid to write it, and that's more than a lot of playwrights can say about penning a play!

For the rest of the 80s, I continued my theatre work and started to write fiction.  I wrote some short stories, a teleplay, and a novel. Two of the short stories from that period are available now as 99 cent e-books, "Thumbs Down" and "The Plagiarist." One is a crime story, and the other is science fiction. They were experiments--I was looking for my "voice." They're not bad.

My first novel is just that--a first novel. It's the one that every author needs to write and get out of his or her system, and then put away in a drawer because it's probably not very good. That was the case with my first attempt, a mystery featuring a one-armed detective. I started it in 1987 and finished it sometime in 1988. And that's the best thing I can say about it--that I finished it! Believe me, when you set out to write a novel, one of the most important things is to get through the darned thing. There are most likely a million half-written novels out there floating around in people's desk drawers, because I've found that too many people tell me that they started a book once "but never finished it."

I showed the novel to Peter Janson-Smith at Glidrose. He said he liked the plot, but didn't care for the characters. My second literary agent had left the agency I'd worked with, so I was agent-less. I still had my foot in the door there, so I could talk to other agents. I showed the novel to a guy there, and he said he liked the characters, but didn't care much for the plot. So who was correct? I personally didn't think the novel was bad, but I knew it wasn't particularly good. So I stuck it in the proverbial drawer. It will stay there.  However, the experience in writing it was extremely valuable.

WHAT I LEARNED: Maybe I should have outlined the novel? When I started it, I didn't have a clue where it was going to go. The outline concept was something I'd learn later. At any rate, I did discover how difficult it is to write a novel, but more importantly, I learned that I could do it and actually finish it. That's one of the biggest hurdles. If you can write an entire novel from start to finish--whether it's any good or not--then you have the makings of being a *novelist*.

To Be Continued in Part 4...

1 comment:

  1. Ray, I ended up here 'by accident' seeing your post on did I miss you have a blog? I'm looking forward to part 4 as hearing how you got from there to here is encouraging, especially after hearing you say you went through 6(?) agents before Peter when you shared the panel with him at LIM this year..At the time,I thought uh oh oh, since Peter is only my second agent in 20 I doomed?
    Anyway, looking forward to the next bit!
    gaye mack