Writerly musings

Just when you think it’s safe…

So you put in years of effort slaving over a hot keyboard, trying to decipher pages of hastily scribbled notes on what seemed like good ideas at the time – if only you could remember the context. Seasons pass by unheeded as disjointed paragraphs are battered into submission, rounded up and herded into chapters that begin to form something vaguely resembling a manuscript. Life is confined to the margins of the page, scrutinising endless lines of type for elusive errors until the familiar pink elephants begin their march across the screen, trampling the remains of your sanity and failing eye sight.

But you hung in there and now it’s done! The elephants have packed their trunks and the pigs have taken wing, performing joyful aerobatics in celebration. Sacrifice a large chunk of the bank balance for the cause, and the moment has finally arrived when all the labour pains and swearing produces the small wad of tightly bound paper wrapped in a crisp new cover, clutched proudly in your hot little hand.

Do you become the author’s equivalent of a baby bore? Can’t resist touching it, admiring it from all angles, bombarding family and friends with photos of your name on the cover, and regaling them for the umpteenth time how you cleverly resolved Chapter No-One-Cares after weeks of suffering from a particularly obstinate writer’s block. Yawn.

Or were you somewhat disappointed that the end result wasn’t as perfectly formed as you had hoped? An important part of your cover design compromised to meet a deadline; the photographs not arranged to their best advantage, another compromise dictated by time constraints. So it wasn’t love at first sight, unfortunately.

The overwhelming sentiment in my case was relief that it was all over. Two months since publication, I still can’t bring myself to look at my modest tome for fear of finding yet another defect slipped between the pages beneath the radar. Post-publication stress disorder – is that a thing? There were times when I feared the book would never be ready, heartily sick of reading and re-reading my own words to catch unexpected mistakes that weren’t even mine, introduced at various stages of the publishing process.

When the first of the several ‘final’ drafts was sent for my approval, completely devoid of any caption to describe the twenty-nine photos, I was pretty much at the end of my tether (quite an exceptionally long and unflappable tether too, I might add). The buffers were hit, or more accurately, cannoned into when the amended ‘final’ draft was returned with captions randomly inserted, bearing no relation to the photos that were in the wrong order anyway. Presumably I got the short straw.

But what the hell, the deed is done. I’ve written the thing and there it is warts and all, filling several boxes that represent a large portion of my life savings. Now what? Simply persuade the unsuspecting public that this unique and brilliantly written tale is worth parting with few pounds to enrich their lives with. Advice on how to do such a thing is plentiful, and for those – let’s face it – vast majority of writers who aren’t hampered with chronic shyness, all perfectly feasible suggestions. Yeah, no problem! Bring on the book signings, line up those interviews, preen and pose for photo shoots and splash them liberally over social media. Me, I don’t even have my name on the cover!

So what’s left for the introverted author who communicates better on paper than in person? Interviews are not for me. I’m very uncomfortable being placed under the microscope like some strange specimen to be gawked at until something more interesting comes along – which wouldn’t take much to be honest! Who cares what I might think, I can’t take myself that seriously. Having suffered a few such meetings for the autorotational cause when first qualified as a gyroplane pilot, I view journalists with extreme suspicion. Why bother to ask questions, take notes, or even talk to me at all when the resulting articles bare no resemblance to anything that actually happened. One report by a regional rag stated that I liked to ‘land in a field and go for a walk.’ Utter fictitious twaddle! Walking can be done anytime anywhere, whereas every airborne moment with my gyro is a rare and precious gift not to be squandered. And as if I’d leave my little bird parked alone in some random field. Honestly.

Invest in a professional photographic portrait for promotional purposes. Yep, I can’t think of a better way to scare people off! What a challenge for Photoshop. Airbrush all the character that is now perceived as imperfection from my ugly mug, and there’d be nothing left. My face isn’t a pristine show home, it’s been lived in for 57 years and the cracks are showing. Imagine the waiting audience deceived by this glossily polished creature displayed on the poster – and then I turn up! They’d all want a refund. No, HD wasn’t made for faces like mine; it frightens horses and hens stop laying. I feel stupid signing books anyway, never know what to write and why deface a nice crisp new copy with my scribble. Next.

Inevitably there’s no escaping the ubiquitous F word: the dreaded Facebook. I don’t want to put myself out there. I like my privacy and fail to understand the relentless urge to publicly broadcast every mortal mundane moment of existence to people who have no idea who they’re reading about, and care even less. Anti social media, that’s me.

But authors MUST have a website! It’s a fact, engineered into genetic code and carved in tablets of stone. An online presence to promote themselves and their scribblings, somewhere to be followed, linked, shared and connected to by other unknown forces floating in cyber space. The lesser of two evils (possibly), only time will tell. So here we are, albeit warily in truth: reluctantly dipping a digital toe into the ether, poised to flee at the first hint of approach.

Sorted. But wait, there’s a catch! Not only must you promote yourself, your book and further scribblings – now you have a website, dear unsuspecting little author – you have to promote that as well! Where does it end? Do I need another website to promote this website to promote the book, ad infinitum etc. etc.

Oh dear. The pigs are on finals…

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