My last What Works For Me article went down really well so, whether you want it or not, here are a few more words of dubious wisdom. This time: the generation, gestation and harvesting of IDEAS.
When you write, there are a number of things you inevitably get asked over and over. One of the favourites is where do you get your ideas? For me, that’s a really interesting question. The easiest answer is something glib like dreams, or they just appear out of the ether, but that’s no help when you’re sitting in front of a classroom full of kids or when you’re on a panel at an event in front of an audience that’s expecting you to say something enlightening/witty. There’s more to it than that.
My last piece talked about the process I follow to turn an idea into a book, so I thought it would be interesting to go back a stage and look at how those ideas appear in the first place and what I do to nurture and develop them. As always, this is what works for me. If it doesn’t work for you or you have alternative suggestions, let me know and I’ll put together a follow-up post.
Firstly, what do I mean by ‘idea’? It’s a pretty bland and unscientific word. I guess it would be more appropriate to talk about ‘inspiration’. I’m talking about something that stimulates you… something that makes you want to know more, that makes you ask what if…? What’s important is recognising when this inspiration strikes, and doing something about it.
A few folk have asked the question recently, so it’s good to be able to confirm that signed copies of TRUST – my anti-science-fiction novel – are now back in stock. This is the book that relaunched Infected Books back in 2012 – the book that Starburst Magazine rated as 10/10 and said “Trust is a slow-burner and all the richer for it. The layers of characters and details of the story play out perfectly when matched with an ending you’re not likely to forget. It’s also an outstanding novel, delivers in more ways than one, and is worthy of a place on the discerning fan’s bookshelf.”
Happy New Year! I hope you enjoyed the holidays. I’ve a huge amount planned for 2014, lots to get through, so I thought I’d dive in with the first in a series of posts about the re-release of STRAIGHT TO YOU in February. Today I wanted to explain why I’ve re-written the book.
Incredibly, it’s twenty years ago yesterday since I started work on the first draft of the novel. If you’ve read any of the interviews I’ve done over the years, you’ll inevitably have heard me say I’m a frustrated film-maker at heart. When I left school I wanted to make movies, but with no relevant experience or qualifications, and no immediately obvious way of getting any, I ended up working for a high street bank (something which, though I enjoyed aspects of it at the time, I’m less than proud to admit now). I saved up and bought a video camera, but the quality was poor and editing footage was next to impossible, so plans to break into the film business were put on hold. But I was left with a number of stories rattling around inside my head, and I knew I had to do something with them. I tried my hand at writing screenplays before deciding I was better suited to writing more conventional prose. After a number of false starts, I sat down on 1st January 1994 and set myself a few ground-rules for writing. I told myself it was my last chance.
I decided I’d plan the full outline of the story first;
I’d write at least a page a day;
I wouldn’t go back and re-read or edit anything until I’d finished each full draft.
Six months later and I’d written my first novel, STRAIGHT TO YOU. I reluctantly began showing it to people, assuming they’d hate it, and I was relieved (and shocked and surprised, if I’m honest) when they didn’t. In fact, they seemed to actually enjoy it. Then someone got really angry with me because the ending of the book made them cry, and someone else told me you can’t finish a story like that, and another friend said they couldn’t stop thinking about it… and I realised I might actually be onto something.
The original 1996 release of Straight to You
After a relatively brief search, the book found a home with a very small British publisher, and STRAIGHT TO YOU was released in September 1996. You probably know the rest of the story from here… I sat back and naïvely waited for the cheques to come rolling in, but they didn’t. I waited to hear from readers and other publishers, but heard nothing. I checked the shelves of all the bookshops in Birmingham, and found it stocked in only one… The initial print run of just 500 copies failed to sell (and I still have a box left in my garage…). Looking back, it would have been easy to throw in the towel, but I took another option instead. I finished writing AUTUMN and made that book available for free online, and that was probably the single most important decision I’ve taken in my writing career so far.
But STRAIGHT TO YOU wouldn’t go away. People seemed to really respond to the story which, in essence, is very simple: the sun is dying, the end of the world is fast approaching, and our hero is separated from his lover by hundreds of miles – will he reach her before all life on Earth is annihilated?
2005 Infected Books re-release
In 2005 I re-released the novel through Infected Books, though with a number of reasonably successful novels under my belt by that time, I was growing to dislike my debut. Not the story, just the way it was written. Looking back at the original version now I cringe. Twenty years ago I was a single man with no kids and hardly any responsibilities. I also had bugger all writing experience, bugger all life experience, and it showed. The characters were flat and two-dimensional, the dialogue was awful, you couldn’t move for clichés… Perhaps I’m being overly harsh and critical, but I don’t think so. And as time progressed, so my hatred (and that’s not too strong a word) for the original novel continued to grow. But still the story wouldn’t go away…
Fast-forward to 2011, and when I delivered the last AUTUMN and HATER novels to my publishers, I decided to go back and revisit my other Infected Books releases, to try and bring them up to the standards of my subsequent books and give the stories the treatment I thought they deserved. TRUST, as you probably know, was released in July 2012, and AUTUMN: THE HUMAN CONDITIONcame out last year. That just left STRAIGHT TO YOU, which I rewrote from scratch last summer.
I’m over the moon with the way the book has turned out, and initial feedback has been very positive. I’ll talk in the coming weeks about the inspirations behind the novel, the differences between the original and new versions of the book, and remind me also to tell you about being shafted by Hollywood (because, at one stage, the book was on the verge of being optioned by some very famous folks… and no, I won’t be telling you who, because I can’t afford to sue them and, more to the point, I can’t afford to be sued).
All I’ll say for now is that despite being very, very different, the 2014 version of STRAIGHT TO YOU still retains the same atmosphere of that little book I started writing twenty years ago yesterday. In some ways it feels like an impossible sequel. I guess if I had made it in the movie business, I’d be calling it a reboot or a reimagining. Whatever it is, I can’t wait for people to read it.
Want to spoil a friend or loved one’s Christmas with a little end of the world misery? Looking for something apocalyptic to usher in the new year? Or maybe you’re not a festive person yourself… are you happier in the company of Haters, aliens and the living dead than snowmen, reindeers and Santa Claus? If so, www.infectedbooks.co.uk is the place for you.
I finished writing the new version of STRAIGHT TO YOU yesterday. Just edits, beta-reads and (I hope) a little subsequent re-work to be done now, and then my project to get all my older books re-released will be almost complete. I’ll tell you more about the updated version of the book and my plans for it in the coming months.
All this looking back got me thinking about TRUST again. I’m very proud of the book, but I don’t think I’ve shown it enough love in the year and a half since it was re-released, so here’s a little blatant self-promotion to boost its profile.
Starburst magazine rated it 10/10 and said “TRUST is a slow-burner and all the richer for it. The layers of characters and details of the story play out perfectly when matched with an ending you’re not likely to forget. It’s also an outstanding novel, delivers in more ways than one, and is worthy of a place on the discerning fan’s bookshelf.”
Booklist Online said “The writing is not as visceral as Moody’s popular post-apocalyptic novels, but that isn’t a bad thing: this story, with its slowly building sense of unease and multiple thematic undercurrents, needs a more delicate touch. Moody’s many fans will absolutely want to read this one.”
And remember, those of you who purchase the hardcover version of THE HUMAN CONDITION will automatically qualify for a discount on the forthcoming Infected Books/Gollancz (even more limited) edition of AUTUMN: AFTERMATH.
A little advance warning: the free online versions of TRUST will shortly disappear. At the moment you can read the entire novel at www.trustdavidmoody.com and Wattpad, but I’ll be removing the last third or so of the book from these sites at the beginning of August. Why? A couple of reasons, actually.
First, as I’ve already revealed, I’ll be serialising the brand new version of STRAIGHT TO YOU from late summer onwards. The reality of life as a writer at the moment is that I can’t afford to give away as much of my work as I’d like. My kids are a demanding lot. They’re always after something… food, clothes, a roof over their heads, those kinds of things! Over the years I think I must have given away upwards of a million free books, and there are plenty more to come, so I can’t be accused of being stingy.
Second, I’m planning to try a few new things with TRUST, which I’ll tell you more about in due course. I won’t be able to judge the success of these initiatives if the free versions remain available.
By way of apology for not posting for a couple of weeks, I thought I’d share MURIEL with you – a nice little zombie short which was originally published in the SFX Magazine Zombie Special a couple of years back.
When the dead rise, a young survivor, left home-alone, follows all the rules to outlive his neighbours and establish his post-apocalyptic credentials. But life after the end of the world proves to be far more difficult than they made it look in the movies…
Things have been deathly quiet here for the last couple of weeks, but that should change in the very near future. Pre-order details about the AUTUMN: THE HUMAN CONDITION re-release will be announced in the coming days, as well as details of some new events, and interesting updates on a few long-gestating projects.
Congratulations to Dakota David Dingman from Florida who is the winner of the most recent TRUST giveaway. He gets a copy of the limited edition for his troubles, along with copies of the AUTUMN: AFTERMATH and AUTUMN: THE HUMAN CONDITION limited editions when they’re released later this year. More news about those releases soon.
And for those who haven’t yet read it, I’ve decided to leave the free version of TRUST online for a while longer. Head over to www.trustdavidmoody.com to read it
A quick reminder – you’ve got just under two weeks left to enter the latest TRUST giveaway. Just help me promote the free version of the book and you’ll be entered into a draw to win a copy of the limited edition of TRUST along with limited editions of AUTUMN: AFTERMATH and AUTUMN: THE HUMAN CONDITION when they’re released later this year. Just tweet about the book (use hashtag #trustdavidmoody) or post on Facebook (tag me so I catch your entry) before 31st January. See this recent post for more details.
Don’t forget – the collectors edition of TRUST is available at a reduced price for a limited time. More information here.