1. CaptainFantastic
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    CaptainFantastic New Member

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    Help/Advice/Shouting at Required

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by CaptainFantastic, Jan 8, 2012.

    Hello and Happy new year.

    I hope I've come to the right place and am posting on the right forum.

    I'll start with the basics.

    Middle Class helicopter instructor steals money from employer to impress wife. Get's found out. Get's arrested. Wife leaves him. Gets sent to Jail.
    Starts writing a type of fly-on-the-wall documentary in written form from the minute the Judge said "You're going to prison". This, initially as self therapy, escapism and something to do. After not too many days the wannabe author started to recognise a number of issues. 1: That perhaps prison was just what was required to give him a jolly good kick up the backside, 2: There is an awful lot wrong with the way prisoners are "warehoused" and expected to come out the other end "fixed" and 3: That he was "a fish out of water" but fully deserved, to be where he was.

    The near 300,000 words written in 17 weeks are, I hope, funny, sad and ironic. It covers the transition of the author's decision making process together with the realisation that prisoners stand little chance of being brought back to the straight and narrow when, for example, the staff go to sleep whilst on duty-this happened on two occasions.

    It is perhaps too, the world's longest love letter.

    About halfway through the process I wrote to a very well known author who has also served time in prison asking him for advice as to what to do with my pile of nonsense. He kindly wrote back and suggested that I look in the prison library for something called the "Writers and Artist's Yearbook" and to approach the Literary agents. 96 letters went out, which within itself was "The Great Escape". An awful lot didn't respond. Most that did said "Thanks, but no thanks".

    Nine though, said they would like to take a look. One in particular, wrote me a number of letters but told me not to get too excited, as the current world of publishing is "dire".

    I then wrote to another person-of-note here in the UK, who has also spent time in prison (and is a well known author) asking if he could give me a "steer". One of the most supportive letters ever written wangled its way back to me, telling me to crack on. He also gave me some very sound advice as to the baby steps required when released.

    By a strange fluke, during my last week of "Porridge", yet another very well known author joined the cast of characters by actually appearing at the prison, to give a talk about "writing". At the end of the presentation I asked the speaker for advice as to what do do with my waste of biro ink before I sent it on to the agents. The author strongly suggested that once a draft was typed up, that I got some people to have a gander at it and pass comment honestly and openly.

    I was released at the end of November. I e-mailed both the ex-prisoner authors asking if they could take a look. The first one e-mailed me back saying "sorry-too busy" but the second said whizz it over. I thanked him and got typing.

    I have been typing ever since! I had NO IDEA how long it would take me to feed my hand-written manuscript into my computer. I am not the world's fastest typist. This posting has taken me three cups of coffee...

    I have asked about three other people if they will have a look too-all from different walks of life and they have kindly said they will take a nose.

    I've joined up on this site to see if anyone can throw anything else at me. I have not written a book before. Having said that, I hadn't been to prison before. And I do not intend to go back...

    Back, to typing!

    J
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    you want shouting?...ok, i'll give you some shouting...

    GET REAL, MAN!... IT'S WAAAAAAY TOO LONG!... AND CAN'T POSSIBLY BE WRITTEN WELL ENOUGH TO BE MARKETABLE, SINCE YOU TOSSED IT OFF SO QUICKLY!

    ...ok, now i'm back to my motherly advice decibel range [i hate yelling]... you clearly need to cut this at least in half, best would be pare it down to 1/3 of its present bloated size, as no publisher is going to even look at such a monster...

    ...i've been working with a former inmate on similar, originally handwritten-in-the-slammer over-worded mess and would be happy to take a look at your first few pages to let you know if the writing at least has potential, if you want to email me your first chapter...

    love and hugs, maia
    maia3maia@hotmail.com
     
  3. Ziggy Stardust
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    Ziggy Stardust Active Member

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    You wrote 300k words in 17 weeks, by hand? :confused:

    Why don't you post up a small exert of your book in the novels section?
     
  4. CaptainFantastic
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    CaptainFantastic New Member

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    Sorry-should have explained that it obviously needs to have a lot of the dross culled. "I got up and had coffee with Razors Robert" etc.

    Thanks for that. I realise I should have made that clear in my original post.

    J
     
  5. Pea
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    Pea super pea!

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    300k in 17 weeks is insane. You've already done a huge amount already, but the work is just beginning. Once you've typed it all up you'll have to edit and distill it, take out all the dross and inane uneeded descriptions and meaningless scenes. Make a clear plan on what the book is about, what has to be there and what can go. Would it be possible to split the manuscript into several books while still maintaining cohesive stories that can stand alone? If not, wow, you have a lot of cutting to do. It's around 1200 pages and unless you get amazingly lucky, no one will publish something of that length from a new author.

    Good luck on the road ahead.
     
  6. Mercury12000
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    Mercury12000 Member

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    You could turn them into essays, if the style is right.
     
  7. CaptainFantastic
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    CaptainFantastic New Member

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    Hello again and thank you for more input.

    In no particular order I'll attempt to respond.

    When I got out I was presented with 2 very full lever arch files with everything that had gone out in the mail and got typing. I decided from the top that apart from correcting punctuation and grammar, not to make any changes from the hand written MS, to the computerised version. Thus ending up with a rough cut which obviously would then need a serious attack of editing.

    I am going to present the five copies or so to people to comment on; UNCUT, to see if there is uniform common ground on what should stay and what should go-an interesting conundrum in itself.

    If there is an overall majority on what the dross is that will make life very easy indeed. However, because I have deliberately selected people who are all very diverse, I suspect assorted and varying opinions.

    So do I take the plunge and edit myself-or get a third party-like when a Director hands his rushes to an editor?

    I know it's a lot of words. However, 10 pages or so of A4 a day, is what the result is, on writing everything, seen, heard and felt-especially when one is/was a fish out of water.

    I have considered two or three volumes but I think the story works best in one sitting. I would rather cull-and make one good book rather than 2 or 3 rubbish ones.

    Thanks again!
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    given the subject matter, i agree that you probably only have one extremely overwritten book there, so divvying it up into more than one wouldn't be a viable option...

    as to hoping for a consensus among your 5 readers, are they professionals in the writing field?... if not, i don't see that as a good idea, since you're likely to not only get diverging opinions, but also un-good [albeit well-meant] advice...

    any editor capable of doing a good enough job will cost you somewhere up in the 5/6-figure range for such a monumental task and that money is not likely to be recouped, as even with the best editing, it'll still have little to no chance of being taken on by a paying publisher, if self-published isn't likely to break even, much less turn a profit...

    it's not what you wanted to hear, i know, but having been an editor and writing consultant for decades and having worked on a ms almost identical to yours, as well as other books that needed serious editing, i can assure you it's a realistic assessment...

    consoling hugs, maia
     
  9. CaptainFantastic
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    CaptainFantastic New Member

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    All taken on board.

    One of the people looking at it will be one of the ex prisoners/now successful authors and I think he knows what he is talking about.

    In the back of my mind I always knew it would be who'd have to edit it-so thank you for that advice.

    I shall continue typing then get the scissors out!

    J
     

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