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Catch of the Day (Update)

25 Sep

Editing a manuscript is a lot of hard work. In many ways, it’s harder than writing a novel in the first place. It’s the point where you fix all the things that are wrong with the first draft and produce the story you wanted to tell in the first place. I’m now on iteration #3. The story has improved with each telling. Part One – 1973 is now in a very good place. Part Two – 1974 still requires a bit of work.

I once heard Iain Rankin give an interview, where he claimed he didn’t who the villain of the novel was when he was writing the first draft, and only discovered once he reached the end. I know that feeling. All great heroes need an enemy. For the story to work, the enemy has to want the same thing as the hero. Both must remain steadfast in their pursuit of this thing. I thought I knew who the enemy was at the outset, but as I came to know my characters it was obvious that my initial choice of enemy was wrong. He was annoying lad – an idiot even – but he was a little too divorced from the action to be the real baddie of the piece. The real enemy made himself known as the story unfolded, and he wasn’t who I thought he was. This was both confounding and delightful.

Once I knew who the real enemy was and what he’d done to my main character throughout the story, albeit hidden from view, I was able to build all this into the second draft. Every move that the enemy makes is plotted and in the open, but also invisible. By the time that Pogsy, my young hero, gets his first real slap to the face – the enemy’s plans are well under way. The depth of duplicity is both joyous and sickening. Joyous, in that I love it when a plot comes together, and sickening because I hate giving my favourite characters a hard time. It’s necessary though. A character cannot grow if they have it easy. The one thing that has held Pogsy back throughout his young life is a paralysing fear of public speaking. Ultimately, he discovers that the only way he can overcome his enemy is to overcome his worst fears.

With each act of bravery by the hero comes an act of skullduggery by his enemy. It escalates to a point where something really serious is coming and the reader knows there’s no way it can be avoided. The astute reader will work out from the clues what’s coming well before Pogsy, and this makes it even worse. It was gut-wrenching to write, but also very satisfying.

Overall, I’m happy with what I’ve produced. The last few months have been pretty haphazard as far as progress is concerned. The whole thing has taken far longer than I ever imagined. I thought it would by 9 months at most. It’s taken nearer 15. Whilst I enjoy creative writing, it doesn’t pay the bills. Cyber Security does that.

It’s time to go back to work.


Catch of the Day

27 Jul

I’m extremely happy to have finally completed the first draft of my second novel ‘Catch of the Day’. The working title was always Pornofish, but I realised fairly early on that this wasn’t going to fly. The main reason for this: porn was not a recognised term in the early 70s! During my research I discovered that pornography in the film sense was referred to in this period as Stag films or Blue movies. The terms hardcore and softcore porn didn’t come into regular usage until much later. I remember my dad having nuddie books and nuddie calendars, which as kids we often called mucky books. In the early 70s, it was Playboy and Penthouse. Later on, once the Danish publishers got going, all sorts of filth started to appear.

As my novel is set between Sept 1973 and August 1974, which in the UK is a school term, the original title had to go. I’m a little miffed about this, although I can see that it might limit sales. Catch of the Day is much more subtle.

What am I writing about this time? In a nutshell, growing up in a northern fishing town in the UK in hard times. In the novel, Pogsy (the protagonist) is aged 10 going on 11, I remember this age as a sweet-spot, when the world of imagination was beginning to fade and the world of realism was taking over. Timewise, Pogsy’s transition into an adult happens to coincide with massive worldwide upheaval. In the summer/fall of ’73 we had the Second Cod War with Iceland, and war in the Middle East, which initiated an oil crisis, which in turn caused the price of petrol to skyrocket. Edward Heath’s government soon came under pressure from the Miner’s Unions who wanted more money, and caused power shortages / blackouts in order to get it. The government response was to declare a three-day working week and petrol rationing. There was a flour shortage and later a sugar shortage. But people got by and made do. Having a sense of humour helped.

For Pogsy, this is a very exciting time to be alive. The reduced working week means less security misters going about their business. With the help of his gang, he’s able to build the greatest den in the history of dens, hidden away in a secret location – until a new kid in class threatens everything he’s built. With no cameras or mobile phones, and a lot of relative freedoms, we get to take part in all of Pogsy’s adventures and confrontations, sharing in his ups and downs, and one of the great mysteries of life: why are grown-ups so stupid? Pogsy discovers that his dad has a side-business dealing in fish, which is the main currency of the town’s underground black market. He notices that with the end of the Cod War, there is less fish to go around. When Great Britain joins the Common Market on 1st January 1974, and all the UK’s inland fishing grounds are opened up to French and Spanish trawlers, the repercussions for the town are catastrophic. Dad is soon forced to find a new currency, which is acceptable to all the traders he has to deal with. Pogsy sets out on a quest to discover what it is.

First draft completed, let the editing begin…


Head Down, Back to Work

7 Feb

It’s been a while since I last wrote anything Ferrety, mainly because I’ve had my head down in the day job keeping the country secure from foreign interference.

I work in cyber-security and at the moment everyone wants people with my skills. It’s nice to be in high demand, but it doesn’t half soak up the bandwidth – leaving me with little free time to write. Sure, I’ve been banging out reports for the last three years but it doesn’t satisfy in the same way that plotting the ins and outs of a story does. Anyway, I’ve reached the point where I’m a bit frazzled and I need to do something different.

Three months of freedom coming up!

The question is – am I going to write the follow up to Ferret, which involves all my favourite things such as computer games, hacking and a loony conspiracy, or am I going to write the novel that the missus has been badgering me to write for the last 20 years?

At the moment the missus is winning, which means Pornofish is winning. What’s a Pornofish I hear you ask? Well, it’s a made-up word. The novel is a story about fish. Specifically black market fish and the hidden fish economy of the town in which I grew up, until all that nonsense came to an end in the mid-1970s thanks to the second and third Cod Wars. There’s some porn in it, but only in passing – which means in terms of priority it should be called ‘Fishporn’… but somehow that doesn’t really work. I’m sure David Attenborough has a ton of the stuff, but what he does in his spare time is his own business. Hence Pornofish wins. Pogsy is the protagonist of the piece. He’s a ten year old boy whose ambition is to become the leader of the gang rather than always be number two. However, the leader of the gang isn’t going to give up his position that easily. So a story of self-discovery and ambition, set against a backdrop of the Cod Wars, the Three Day week, political turmoil, inequality and power cuts.

I’m going to be blogging at rather than here, so pop on over and give me a follow. You can also find me on Facebook.

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