I NEED A TIME MACHINE! (Or, “Not enough hours in the day!” – an Indie Author’s lament)


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Gif: clipartsheep.com

As a fan of science-fiction, I’ve often thought how useful a time machine would be for a writer. Just think: you could hop into your TARDIS (surely the most recognisable time machine since HG Wells’ comfy armchair) write five thousand words whilst hovering in no-time (a.k.a. ‘the void’ or the ‘time vortex’) and be back in time for tea without anyone even knowing that you’ve been away!

More to the point (of this blog entry, at least) is that you’d have time to catch up on all those ‘How To: write/find your audience/get an agent-slash-publishing deal’  etc. emails flooding into your InBox each day.

How do you (and this is a serious question) ever find time to read them all? Should you even try, when surely typing your query into Google will likely bring up links to all those blog entries anyway? And assuming, of course, that the author has entered the relevant tags into their post.

The answer is, I believe, that you can’t.  How many hours of writing time do we regularly sacrifice to reading blogs that just might give us a new insight and improve our writing/audience reach/chances of landing a publishing deal  (which may or may not be the  ultimate goal of every Indie Author – opinions vary) etc.?

This from someone (me) who regularly works their way through a groaning InBox, painstakingly un-subscribing to all those blogs/feeds that I subscribed to weeks/months ago, in the hope that they might help me to become a better/more successful writer. I regularly ignore my own advice and (perhaps) common sense, which tells me to find a few select blogs to follow and ignore the rest – flagging them as ‘spam’ if need be (which always feels like a horrible thing to do, because sometimes the author is another Indie like me, just trying to increase their Reach.)

“But,” I hear you cry, “I might miss something useful!”  This is true, you might.  But many blog sites have options to switch off email notifications altogether, or to consolidate them into a weekly digest.  Either of these options is probably preferable to having a daily flood of material you know you will never find the time to read, although the first option only works if you do remember to check the site every once in a while!

I would love to hear from other Indie Authors on the subject. How do you manage your reading/writing time, what criteria do you use for deciding which blogs to subscribe to, and do you read everything that comes into your mailbox?  I considered setting up an online survey – but since not everyone reading this will have time to take part, I decided that there probably wouldn’t be much point.

In parting, I should probably apologise for the time it may have taken you to read this, time you might otherwise have spent writing….

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from clipartpanda.com

‘What if…?’ From death comes life (and a story)


On Writing ‘The Methuselah Gene’

I’ve been writing ‘The Methuselah Gene‘ (previous working titles have included ‘All Our Yesterdays’, ‘All Our Tomorrows’ and -very briefly- ‘Time Will Tell’) for almost four years now. It evolved from a mind-bending, time-spanning love story (not much like ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’ but the same genre) into a much darker tale of death, kidnap and the long-reaching effects of genetic research that I could hardly have anticipated when I wrote the very first line back in 2011!

As all writers know, you start with an idea which mutates with each draft; sometimes you begin with one premise and stick with it until the final draft, changing very little of your core story along the way; sometimes you realise that the original idea just doesn’t work as you get deeper into the plotting and writing, and one small tweak will change the whole premise, hopefully for the better.

‘What if?’ are two words which excite me more than any other when I’m writing. Sometimes they are silent, spoken internally (and occasionally, out loud to myself); sometimes in conversation with family, friends or fellow writers. All those ‘what-ifs’ get noted down (sometimes neatly, more often not) and will be mulled over at length – but when an idea is good, your pen can hardly keep up with your mind… that feeling should almost be made illegal, it’s that good.

The original lead character of the story, Eva, was a widow and a bereaved mother in the very first draft – that much has never changed, although Eva is no longer the central character, and the deaths of her first husband and daughter are twenty-five years in the past.  The deaths of her family were accidental in those early drafts – until one day I found myself thinking ‘But what if it wasn’t accidental? What if they were murdered? Who would have done it, and why?’

That question led me down a whole new path, which took the time-slip element of the first version, made it time travel instead, and made Eva’s new partner (Tom) a bereaved parent too. Research into the reason for his son’s death threw in mutated DNA in the form of Progeria, and we were off – the love story became a mystery and a detective story with a science-fiction premise.  Although not quite so much of the science in the story is fiction, as it happens, because the research which is key to the central plot is in fact happening right now … which makes this, I hope,  the optimum time to tell the story!

Also ‘pursuant to our interests’: 

Related toThe Methuselah Gene only in that it deals with the science of DNA, the story of Genetic Fingerprinting is about to begin filming in Michael Crompton’s new drama for ITV, Code of A Killer.

Starring David Threlfall as Detective David Baker and John Simm as Genetics Professor Alec Jeffreys, ‘Code of A Killer’ tells the true story of how, in 1984, Alec Jeffrey’s ground-breaking research enabled Baker to catch a double killer by using the killer’s unique DNA fingerprint to tie him to the murders.

It is hard to imagine a world where the police don’t have access to Jeffrey’s DNA-Fingerprinting techniques – definitely one to watch!

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Produced by World Productions and directed by James Strong, the drama will deal sensitively with the subject matter, and will air on ITV in 2015.