The Return of Suzhou’s Prodigal Sun
Part 22 – To Punish and to Enslave!
After paying a visit to the Suzhou Singapore International School last Tuesday I initially returned in high spirits only to be laid low with a severe cold over the next few days. I thought I was being sensible when I pointed out to Ana, the secondary school librarian that she couldn’t possibly be contagious or infectious, as her own illness had lingered for over a week. Oh no! How wrong I was. This bug is horrible! I’m hoping this will be the worst day of it and that things can only get better from the slough of despond in which I now sit writing. It did give me the opportunity to put together a diary; I’m far to unfit to continue with my novel!
Oh, Ana...I hope you’re better now!
The big news this week is that I’ve finished the first section of my novel. Weighing in at 100,000 words it is the size of a 200-350 page paper pack depending on the font size and layout. This has basically been completed in the two and a half months, which is pretty good going! I need some time, maybe a week, to finish the maps and diagrams, there are approximately 15 of these and have spoken to my artist friend, Scott, about doing these professionally. The example above was an early attempt at the Chang Jiang delta some 2,500 years ago; the final maps will look nothing like this!
If anyone thinks that this is a work that simply dripped out of my head they would be wrong. Whilst the story, or plot, which ever you prefer, is original, as are the personal inter-relationships, character descriptions and so on, in the course of the work I have referred to over one hundred books and websites. In addition I have visited many of the places mentioned, some several times. The point of doing all this was to ensure the historical accuracy of the tale; obviously it does not describe actual history, but my argument would be that the contents of the book could either have probably, or possibly, occurred. Basically I need a specialist on the history of China in the C6/5th BC to read through it so as to ensure there is nothing I have included which could not have happened.
I’ve tried to write the story to appeal to both a western and a Chinese audience. It remains to be seen whether the way I’ve dealt with some cornerstones of Chinese culture will be acceptable over here, but it is my intention to have it translated. I read the thing through from start to finish early this week, almost in one sitting, and came to the conclusion it was quite good. What a surprise! I have three others reading it and, feedback from two so far, has been positive. Obviously these individuals are in the invidious position have having to be the ones who tell me if they think it stinks; as they are friends that will be difficult for them.
It is not a children’s book, there is swearing, violence and sex, all the things that happen in everyday life really, but none of it is gratuitous. I’m presently considering whether one scene needs toning down as it is unusually graphic and having an internal argument with myself over the swearing; one friend says it should probably go, along with some of the modern language I’ve used, the other that it fits well!
Obviously I’ve reached the point where I have to make a big decision. The written section is actually the third in the book, my next task would be to tackle sections one and two, but what has been written works quite well as a standalone, the question therefore; is this the time to approach an agent?
Everyone knows that the hardest things in getting a book published, unless you do it yourself, are firstly writing the damn thing and secondly getting a literary agent to take it on. This is where the 1:1000 odds come in; only one in a thousand novels is published and then only one in a thousand are very successful. I think I’ve lowered the odds somewhat by writing on China, identifying two targets, making the story very compatible for some sort of screen adaptation and writing a good story! Even so; the next step is absolutely daunting because the first responses will be “No!”
Everyone is scared of rejection; I’m no different. It was hard work sending out news and magazine articles and receiving no response for months until things started to work out. At least I can say I’ve been published recently; the Blues programme, More Suzhou magazine and eChinacities are proof of that, even if they are minority audiences. At least I can say, thanks to John, I have an active website, which has received considerable attention. But I’m not Jeffrey Archer, I actually would not want to be and I reckon I write better than wot he does, so getting this thing out to the world is going to require a huge effort.
If anyone has a mate who is a literary agent, who might be interested in the noxious scribbling of a delusional fool, please let me know!